Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Guns for everyone? or Guns for none?

After the tragic death of 33 people at Virginia Tech, voices are being heard on both sides of the gun-ownership divide.

It seems so simple in Singapore. "Ban guns!" is the off-the-cuff remark I would imagine hearing from the typical Singaporean. I used to think the same way too ... until I realized the difference in scale of things when I've lived here in the US long enough. The key idea is "how do you enforce this?":

1) Lots of places to hide: Singapore is a city - 692 sq km (also sarcastically known as the "red dot" by people both inside and outside the country). The U.S. is huge - 9,826,630 sq km.

2) Not enough people to enforce: Singapore population density - 6,208 people per sq km. USA population density - 31 people per sq km. I bet they'll have a hard time even if everyone's a police-person.

3) Get the political will to limit domestic gun manufacturing? Hmmm ... next step, stop smuggling ... doesn't seem so bad this time ... but then again, they can't even keep illegal Mexican Immigrants out: Singapore coastline - 193 km. USA land borders - 12,034 km, coastline - 19,924 km. So, Singapore people-per-border - 23,275 people per km, USA people-per-border - 9,338 people per km.

4) Getting rid of existing guns? No hard numbers here ... I'll just liken it to the Singapore govt trying to take all cellphones away from us, hehehe.

What's the point? None really, I guess ... other than to remind ourselves that very often things are not as simple as it seems in the world outside our little "red dot" and that we have it really lucky (on this point, I'd say that while I agree with LKY that paying the government and especially the civil service well is a good way of keeping corruption to a minimum, I absolutely hate the way they use scare tactics ... ie "You want Singapore to fail? Then don't raise our pay!" to justify it. Frankly, you can justify almost anything with that ...).

Personally, I'm far more comfortable having faith that guns are only in the hands of the few psychos out there (with the majority with the Police) than a scenario where every person has a gun and I've to constantly worry about:

1) someone turning psycho
2) me turning psycho
3) me shooting some poor bloke, thinking he has turned psycho
4) me accidentally shooting some poor bloke while trying to shoot at a psycho
5) me simply accidentally shooting someone or myself

Just way too many variables when everyone has guns ... it's just sad how the gun lobby thinks ...


Teck Beng said...

Hmmmmm... I could agree with you that it is difficult to impose and maintain the gun ban but using that to justify the status quo sounds too lame.
I mean, it's not like the US is still in a wild-west era and you need guns to defend yourselves... Maybe if you live in a deserted farmland with no neighbours or police within 100km but how can it make sense within a urbanised city ?
I agree that having the ban won't stop the psychos from killing but it would help to prevent many other tragedies (like accidental shooting and kids getting their hands on one by accident...)
Having served NS, I do recognize the sense of power you get when holding a weapon, mixed with the fear that I might make a mistake and blow a hole in my friend next to me.
The sense of power could just push the pyscho to "show-off" and demonstrate what he can do with his new found weapon. Maybe the gun lobbyist doesn't want to loss that feeling as well...

Chee Wai Lee said...

OOoo I've not seen any activity from you on your blog in a while and I've been too busy to look at my own!

How have things been?

I've been crazy busy and I just forgot Hong Eng's birthday :(

Teck Beng said...

Well, things been picking up lately at work with a few overseas trip.
And my fatherly duties are keeping me rather busy with whatever freetime I have left.

Hmmm, normally forgetting your gf's birthday is a death sentence. I believe most women can forgive but will never forget. Better prepare a good cover-up story ;-)

Chee Wai Lee said...

No cover-up story required. I was spaced-out, she knows it and I think she understands.