I didn’t write about the Aurora incident. I don’t believe I’ve written much about school attacks. There was one at Parktown Boys’ High School (my alma mater) where some gunmen held boys hostage, but no one was killed.

Aside from the fact that so much of the initial reporting yesterday was incorrect, which is to be expected where the medium is more efficient than the message (so much has been written about the lack of fact-checking in journalism, so I won’t get into it), the fact that more than twenty humans were murdered is sad.

In China yesterday, more than twenty humans were stabbed.

In South Africa, one person is murdered every half an hour. That’s according to this source, courtesy of Politicsweb, where 30.9 murders occur per 100 000 people. This is significantly more than the international average of 7, but to be expected considering the poverty situation.

If one looks at the statistics in US states, poverty also has a correlation with higher murder rates. That is the way of human nature.

Now, what’s my point to all this? My subject refers to the fact that statistics can be used to prove any position, given the right interpretation. And the loudest noise yesterday, on Twitter anyway, was to ban the sale of assault rifles in the USA.

My opinion, as a crime-desensitised South African living in Canada, given that I’m a racist, is that all guns should be under stricter control. It turns out after all the inaccuracies of yesterday’s “social media reporting” that the assault rifle wasn’t even used in the shooting. Assault rifles aren’t the problem. It’s the right to bear arms that’s a problem.

The South African Bill of Rights, which is one of my favourite pieces of legislation in the whole world, clearly points out that, while South Africans have certain rights, they are not inalienable. Your right to something may not impinge on my right to something else. Section 36 says (my emphasis):

1. The rights in the Bill of Rights may be limited only in terms of law of general application to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors, including ­
– the nature of the right;
– the importance of the purpose of the limitation;
– the nature and extent of the limitation;
– the relation between the limitation and its purpose; and
– less restrictive means to achieve the purpose.

2. Except as provided in subsection (1) or in any other provision of the Constitution, no law may limit any right entrenched in the Bill of Rights.

A simple interpretation, if taken in the context of the school shooting yesterday, is that my right to life and freedom outweighs your right to own a firearm. It is within reason and justification to make sure that you are both medically and psychologically fit to own a gun.

Consider Canada. Kelly Oxford wrote an interesting post almost two years ago about the process of owning a firearm here.

I’ll reproduce her main points here, but I recommend reading the commentary:

1. You must pass a day long gun safety course – according to stats only 0.5% fail

2. Provide three references of character

3. Provide information on your love life and financial affairs.

That’s what’s needed in the United States of America. Rational interpretation of a constitution that is hundreds of years old. This isn’t about assault rifles, it’s about common sense. Provide a reasonable way for sane people to own guns, if they want them.

As for me, I won’t have a gun in my house. I have been hunting, I know how to handle different types of firearms, and I enjoy target practice. I suppose it’s because I’m a boy and boys like things that go bang. The difference is, there’s a place for them, and that place isn’t my house. It’s too risky.

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