07 April 2011

Amoklauf in Brazil

The latest reports claim that 11 Brazilian students were killed in their school today by a former student and supposed AIDS patient who killed himself after taking a leg wound from police. From what I've just read about Brazil, I'm surprised that nothing like this seems to have happened there before. The nation has a gun culture comparable to that of the U.S., fueled in part by lingering, partially justified mistrust of the country's police. Wikipedia reports that Brazil is the hemisphere's second-biggest gun manufacturer, while many Brazilians get guns off the grid from soldiers, cops and smugglers from bordering countries. Voters there defeated a referendum in 2005 that would have banned the sale of guns and ammo to civilians. Stringent regulations still make it difficult to obtain a permit to carry a gun, but more than half of the guns in the country are allegedly unregistered, and many of those are presumably carried illegally. In voting down the referendum, Brazilians reportedly affirmed their belief in an American-style individual right to self-defense. They didn't necessarily affirm the individual prerogative to kill, but you can't stop the one from following from the other in some people's minds. Politics possibly imposes a false choice on us between individual self-defense and dependence upon police. The problem with the individual right as it's usually asserted is that it's purely individual; the individual claims the right to act entirely on his own to protect himself and his own. Is there room for a middle ground in which individuals affirm their right to defend themselves by acting collectively, perhaps by forming something equivalent to a "well regulated militia" and registering it with local law-enforcement authorities? The argument that the police can't be everywhere doesn't automatically mean that lone-wolf gunmen are the only remedy. Too many individuals have potentially irrational notions of their rights and the threats to them for individualism to be the ultimate basis for public safety. Many individuals who oppose limitations on gun ownership already see themselves as potential saviors of endangered strangers. Why not make a formal commitment to join others in assisting others a condition of owning certain types of firearms? These ideas come from the spur of the moment, so make of them what you will. I just think that making gun ownership less about "me" without necessarily limiting ownership any further might make an amoklauf, which is only a mad form of individual self-defense for many a perpetrator, less likely.

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