The terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech makes me recall a conference I put on ten years ago in Washington, D.C. called "Gun Control Versus Out of Control.
I was the editor-in-chief of EUROPE Magazine working for the European Commission and I invited police chiefs from cities across Europe including an inspector from Scotland Yard to discuss gun control in their respective nations. The police chiefs from the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy and the United Kingdom debated a police detective with the Washington, D.C. police force about their strict gun control laws. We talked about our lax gun laws across the United States.
After our conference the police chiefs, myself and the D.C. police detective went to one small part of D.C. and the policeman told how many murders took place in that one area in a year. There were more murders in a year in that one particular area of the nation's capital than in all of the police chiefs' cities combined during the same time period. The European policemen were visibly shaken by these statistics.
After telling our audience about tight gun laws across Europe and how these laws were respected and approved by the majority of its citizens people began to ask why America couldn't have stricter gun control laws like European countries. We had several congressmen on our panel and their feeble responses were that there was a strong gun lobby in this country.
Now, ten years after our conference this incomprehensible, senseless and terrible tragedy occurs in a beautiful and tranquil area of Virginia where these type of things should never, ever happen.
As our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims and the wounded students and professors, we wonder if the gun control/out of control debate which is now being waged will lead to anything or any new laws.
Sadly, the prospects of new legislation to control this madness where anyone can go buy a weapon and ammunition, probably will not happen. This is another tragedy of this already terrible event.
Other nations have responded to multiple murders by passing stricter gun laws. Why can't America follow their example?
Surely, we all know that we will not be violating the rights of serious hunters and our Constitution by banning handguns. I do not know of many hunters who need handguns.
What will it take to bring about serious debate and stricter gun legislation in this country? If Virginia Tech is not a reason for tighter laws then I don't know what is. We would be honoring the memory of these promising students who were murdered by this madman if we passed new gun control legislation.
Why should other nations have gun control and the United States be the country that is out of control?
It makes no sense when poll after poll indicates the majority of Americans favor stricter gun laws.
Let's hope this shocking event will shock us into passing new laws.
Speaking of terrible events, the suicide bombings in Iraq yesterday are an indication that perhaps our "surge" policy to make Baghdad safer may not be working.
My Center co-sponsored a conference yesterday at Johns Hopkins SAIS on the Middle East. I spoke on US foreign policy in the region and in particular our policies toward Iraq. I spoke with the Iraqi Ambassador to the US, Samir Shakir Sumaida'ie, before the conference began.
The Iraqi ambassador quite rightly told me that democracy takes a long time to develop and work in a country without a recent history of democracy. He pointed out how long a process it was for the United States to grow and be democratic.
I agreed democracy takes awhile to develop but that the United States did not need to continue propping up a government with 160,000 troops that are in harm's way every hour of every day.
After our conference ended I had to ask myself: What actually is America's policy in Iraq? It seems less obvious every day.
What are 160, 000 American troops doing there if Baghdad has now become the most dangerous place on the planet?
What is America's end goal in Iraq and how long do we need to be there to meet these objectives?
While Congress and the American people debate the tragedy at Virginia Tech and the need for new and stricter gun laws let's also ask again: Why are we still in Iraq now going into our fifth year? This is also a national tragedy with sad results on a daily basis for no apparent reason, objective or goal.