[Outlook]Taking responsibility

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[Outlook]Taking responsibility

As the American historian Douglas R. Hofstadter has pointed out, the United States has a gun culture because the country is unable to offer any fundamental solutions to gun crime, apart from a constitutional amendment to restrict gun ownership.
The Virginia Tech shooting was an atrocity perpetrated by an individual with psychopathic tendencies who exploited the blind spots of American society. The shooting was a artifact of American gun culture and, sadly, a crime that has been all too common in the United States.
It was the Korean government and media that misunderstood the violent event and saw Cho Seung-hui as a Korean person on a gun spree in the United States. Koreans are obsessed with bloodlines. For instance, Koreans suddenly regarded Hines Ward, an American soccer player, as Korean, once he was successful on the global stage. The justification was that his mother is Korean, even though he was raised entirely in the United States. In Korea, we have a bizarre culture. When somebody does something wrong, senior figures in our society urge others with no connection to the culprit to accept responsibility. This approach often boomerangs.
However, it is a different story for Koreans living in the United States. People say time heals everything, but waiting for that solution to work is not the way to heal the wounded pride of the Korean community in the United States. It would be some comfort if the Cho killings create the momentum needed to revise the U.S. Constitution, so that gun ownership is prohibited, but the chances of that happening range from slim to non-existent.
Among the 43 U.S. presidents there are four shooting victims, but it is still unthinkable to revise the Constitution ― the country’s history makes it so.
Those who drafted the U.S. Bill of Rights were worried that the federal government might, one day, infringe upon individual rights and freedoms. So they adopted a militia system, like that created by the citizens of ancient Rome. They believed that if citizens were able to form militias with guns in their hands, instead of separating citizens and the military, they would be able to resist if the government put undue pressure upon them. That is the background to the Second Amendment, which granted citizens the right to keep and bear firearms.
Thus, in the United States, guns are not just a cultural symbol that conjures up images of the Wild West. Even though guns seem to be an instrument that criminals use to oppress the law-abiding, they also symbolize freedom and resistance against excessive power.
The National Rifle Association, the group that keeps frustrating people who are advocates of gun control, also uses freedom as their banner. Proponents of gun control base their case on gun crime statistics, but their practical approach does not work. In San Francisco, residents passed a firearms control law via a referendum, but the National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit for annulment, so the residents backed down.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the police confiscated guns from citizens, but the National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit, so Louisiana adopted a law that stipulates that firearms cannot be confiscated, even in an emergency. Following that move, the U.S. Congress also passed a bill that stipulated that any local government body under federal control cannot confiscate legitimate firearms, even in an emergency.
Meanwhile, most politicians who work for gun control and thus upset the National Rifle Association are usually defeated in elections or have to quit their political career due to pressure from NRA smear campaigns. In the 2000 U.S. presidential election, Al Gore was attacked by the National Rifle Association because he wanted more gun control. He lost Tennessee and Arkansas, which were both on his home turf, and succumbed to defeat by George W. Bush.
From 1920 until 1933, the United States had a law that prohibited the manufacture or sale of alcohol. But gun control is much harder to attain.
Because of the Virginia Tech shootings, Koreans living in the United States now can take up America’s most difficult cause as their own. Korean Americans can voice their collective opposition to gun possession. As U.S. citizens they now have good cause to express their opinions about guns. The Korean community must act to show that they, like all Americans, are the victims of gun crime. Donating money or staging a fast are sentimental approaches.
The right way is for them to work with groups that campaign for gun control and make it a political issue. If Korean Americans feel they must take some responsibilty for the Virginia massacre, let them channel their energies toward this cause.

*The writer is a professor of international relations at Kyungsung University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Gweon Yong-lib
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