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A world without firearms

  • Published at 05:06 pm April 27th, 2018
  • Last updated at 11:14 am April 28th, 2018
A world without firearms
The BBC is one of the very few news organizations that continuously comes up with new ideas for its audience.  Recently, BBC Future published an analysis titled “What if all guns disappeared?” in its “What if…” section where Rachel Nuwer depicts the present state of humanity bubbling with guns and gun-related deaths across the world, and what would happen if these guns were taken away from the hands of humans. The analysis reveals much that we may not have heard before in this part of the world. According to Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural science at Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina, about 100 people in America die every day due to gunshot related injuries.  From 2012 to 2016, of the 44,000 Americans who committed suicide, half of them used firearms. 50 women in the US are shot dead by their partners every month. And nearly 1,000 people are annually killed by the police using firearms. Rachel Nuwer concludes that yes, the world is bound to be a better place if guns disappear. Yes, the absence of firearms would lessen the number deaths to a great extent.  At the same time, we should also understand that guns don’t kill people; it is people who kill people; it is us who kill ourselves. Guns act as multipliers only. Guns (and this includes big guns too) are merely the tools we use to kill. How would humans kill each other during mediaeval times? They may not have had firearms, but they still had fire to fight and kill.  If there are no firearms now, there would still be weapons such as swords, knives, bows and arrows, and spears as they did before the invention of today’s firearms. A razor blade can also kill a human or an animal quite efficiently. In the Biblical story, Cain’s murder of Abel was perhaps the first killing in the world. Now, how did Cain kill his brother? With a stone as far as we are told.  There was no weapon other than stones or tree branches. Let’s not get into the reason why Cain killed his brother. The fact is that he killed; and that’s how humans came to know that we were capable of murder.
We humans by nature are prone to get ourselves involved in conflict; we tend to establish our domination over other humans
If we have a look at ancient history, we see millions of people being killed during the reign of various empires. Athenian, Roman, and Mayan cultures are only a few examples.  When the Romans succeeded in defeating Spartacus, they crucified 6,000 of his men overnight. They didn’t need a gun to do that. A dig in the history of global genocide would reveal horrified tales of killings which didn’t need the firearms that we see today. How did the Romans make the gladiators fight against each other? With simple traditional weapons. How did the slave-keepers across the world contain the human-slaves that they used to buy with their money? We humans by nature are prone to get ourselves involved in conflict; we tend to establish our domination over other humans; we tend to kill when it comes to safeguarding our own interests.  For example, what would the Burmese troops have done if they wished to drive away the Rohingya? What would the fighting armies in Syria have done if they didn’t have any guns and bombs?  They would still fight without firearms, with the old traditional weapons. People across the world would still die at the hands of other humans. Now, what if firearms disappeared from Bangladesh? How would political rivals fight against each other? How would street muggers attack their victims? How would people solve land disputes?  If we didn’t have arms, we would still have the fire; muggers on the streets have shown that it is possible to snatch people’s money by rubbing poisonous ointment in their eyes. Rapists would still rape and leave many women dead. Therefore, humans would still die in the absence of firearms, but the rate of deaths would certainly come down. A person receiving a gunshot wound has less of a chance to survive than a person receiving a knife wound.  One can escape a sword attack, but it’s close to impossible to do the same with a gunshot. Having wished for a gun-free world, we must also keep in mind today’s global reality about conflicts, wars, crimes, and the arms industry. A gun-free world would be a Utopian wish.  It looks like firearms are here to stay, and people across the world will continue to die from them. If guns could be made to vanish, the US would at least have them, if no one else.  However, Australia is a good example of a country that has reduced the number of guns in its homeland. Given the current reality, it may not be possible for the warring nations to reduce their production and numbers, but it is possible for the rest of the countries to take a longer look at their gun laws and try doing something about it. But what about law enforcers? How would they protect us against the criminals if they didn’t have guns? Well, did law enforcers always have guns to control crime in the old days? No. Bangladesh’s gun laws have been inherited from the repressive colonial powers whose objective of using guns was to force the people of this land to remain under their rule. These laws belong to them; it is high time we re-thought and re-formulated a new set of laws that will help us as a nation with fewer gun-related casualties. Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a columnist.