A day after the massacre at Virginia Tech University, SPIEGEL ONLINE posted summaries of the first editorials from across Europe about the deadliest school shooting in history -- the tragedy was still unfolding, the printer's ink still wet. Of course, many of these op/ed pieces expressed sympathy and sadness for the families of the victims. But like the New York Times and other major American newspapers, many in the European media issued biting critiques of the lack of exhaustive federal gun controls in the United States. An editorial in one of Germany's most conservative newspapers, Bild, argued that this has created a situation where it can be easier in some states to purchase a submachine gun than to get a driver's license.
In many parts of Europe, where gun control laws are strict, no man better illustrates this American paradox than Charlton Heston, the actor and former head of the National Rifle Association, America's pro-gun lobby. His outspoken views on guns have made him the posterboy of school shootings.
German cable news network n-tv was quick to flash the iconic image of Heston and his musket in its coverage of the tragedy. An editorial in the Stuttgarter Zeitung opines that the killer lived in "a society in which weapons are idolized as emblems of freedom and manliness ... a country where the masses cheer when aging actor Charlton Heston raises a musket in his shaky hand and bellows that nobody will ever be able to take his weapon from him unless they 'pry it from my dead, cold hands.'"
The French left-wing daily Liberation is even shriller in tone. "It is said that in France, everything ends with a song," the paper's editorialist writes, "but in the land of John Wayne, Charlton Heston and George Bush, every anger, every heartache, every fight between neighbors or dealers and every depression ends with a shootout. That's why the students on the campuses die -- because no one, starting with Hillary Clinton, thinks about doing anything about it."
It didn't take long before bloggers began attacking and Matt Drudge's faithful army of right-wing, Red State readers began spamming our In-Boxes and conservative political blogs resumed their attacks on the "European left."
Please note that, because a vast majority of those in the US who read Tuesday's European press review came to the article through links from conservative Web sites, the following responses represent only one side of the gun control argument in America.
Here's a round-up in the political blogs:
Denis Boyles, who blogs for the influential conservative National Review, which helps set the agenda on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, calls Monday's shootings "an ideological windfall for the European left." SPIEGEL, he adds, "has a round-up of kneejerk Euro-drivel, not including its own -- most of it created by journalists who don't know (or didn't care) that the Virginia Tech campus had already been disarmed by gun control. All in all, another day of deep embarrassment for the European media."
Over at the arch-conservative John Birch Society, Alan Scholl blogs: "In the minds of leftists and formerly civilized Europe, the Virginia Tech shootings were perpetrated by Charlton Heston." Whether in Germany or the United States, "gun control laws put law abiding citizens at the mercy of criminals. America's Founding Fathers understood that each person has a fundamental, inalienable right to his or her life and that, as a consequence, each person has a right to defend his or her life against criminal depredations from any quarter. If these fundamental rights would have been respected by Virginia law, then perhaps yesterday's violent rampage could have been prevented, or much lessened."
And a condensed dump of the letters we've received from our American readers:
"It's very sad when countries decide to seize upon the events of a maniac to push their leftist agenda," writes Doug Miller of the US. "The United States citizens are suffering from a horrific display of evil by someone we welcomed into this country with open arms. I saw none of my fellow country men gloating during the Russian schoolhouse massacre of 2004. We were saddened. We were respectful. To those who wish to dump on my country during this time of mourning, shame on you. You are heartless and thoughtless."
"He was a madman and you, as Europeans, should well understand that there is no protection from a madman," writes H. Pitts of the US. "To reduce this to an arrogant and patronizing diatribe against the well-considered provisions of the US Constitution serves only to demonstrate your lack of empathy for the victims. To exploit this misery as a platform for political posturing is nothing short of disgusting."
"I'm amazed at the simplistic and smug attitude of European pundits who go so far as to lay the blame for Monday's massacre at the feet of Charlton Heston," writes Theresa Colbert of the US. "The assumption that Americans are gun lovers is far off the mark, as is the notion that this latest tragedy is somehow the result of Americans who are descendents of the pioneers who had to fight off the Indians or the British. Guns do not kill people, people kill people. Need I remind you of those who have been slaughtered by Islamic terrorists in bloody and brutal ways without using a gun? Face it, you do not understand American people or American life."
"You can't even wait one day to begin your political blather condemning, once again, America," lambasts Marilyn Hannahs of Corralles, New Mexico. "When London and Madrid suffered, we Americans grieved along with those nations. When all of the world struggled to survive against dictators, who saved everyone? Oh, it was the Americans. How do we get repaid? By this constant drumbeat of hate."
"Castrated by pathetic political-correctness and rotting from the inside from insidious immigration issues, you lay blame on one notable person while ignoring the magnifying effect your news-whoring creates," writes Scott Smith of Boulder, Colorado. "Blaming Mr. Heston, who is fighting against dementia and unable to defend himself is what one would expect from a feckless and spineless creature: the Euro-press."
"The real problem is that none of these students or teachers had a personal weapon," writes Rick Geiger of Rochester, New York. "They could have killed this guy before 30 people were dead. Here in the US we value each and every individual human life and that is why having a right to self defense is part of our constitution and assumed to be a natural right."
"More guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens would have helped prevent this slaughter," writes Charles Edwards. "This is exactly what happens when there is gun control. Don't think that we the people aren't on to this gun grabbing, Second Amendment-opposing propaganda. We are, and we will not let you spin this tragedy to the benefit of your wicked agenda."
"Accusing Charlton Heston of being responsible for this atrocity is like blaming Pope Benedict of being responsible for the Holocaust," writes Dave Noll of the US. "Get your act together -- and stay out of American affairs. We are never going to give up our rights under the Second Amendment and we don't need any influence from the liberal left-wing and new world order activists from Europe."
"The Constitution of the United States," writes Mark Neidig II, "does protect and allow for the formation of militias and the private ownership of arms. This is not only to protect against foreign invasion, but also gross infringement of personal and civil liberties by our own government. Europe is all too familiar with what a government's intent is when it confiscates private arms from its citizenry. Hitler and Stalin all confiscated arms prior to confiscating all personal and civil liberties."
"The knee-jerk response of the left-wing European press to the shootings was perfectly predictable," writes William Heubaum. "Don't blame the madman who committed the crime, instead blame American citizens' constitutional freedom to own firearms that is unavailable to the 'subjects' of foreign governments. Yes, America has more individual freedoms than perhaps any other country, with more opportunities for the abuse of those freedoms. That's the price we pay for our liberties."
"I am a pro-gun American who works for a university," writes Carl Black. "I am of the opinion that if a gun toting, law abiding citizen had been around, this individual would not have killed all these people because he would have been shot earlier in his rampage."
"Those Europeans are so evolved," writes John Wolfington of Philadelphia. "Why should we listen to people who joyously embraced totalitarianism and waged two world wars? After all that, there are still people in Europe who, to this day, cannot summon up the testicular fortitude necessary to effectively intervene and stop genocide in Bosnia in their own backyard. History has shown us quite clearly -- and so do the current events in Darfur -- that a disarmed populace results in numbers of death orders of magnitude greater than a nut with a couple of handguns. Europeans need to get a grip on reality."
"It is unfortunate that the reporting from Europe always seeks to blame the US and its policies for the acts of individuals and always ends the blame before Europe can be implicated," writes Jeff Patterson. "The primary gun used in this situation was a Glock from Austria. If I were to apply the European rule set, then Europe is to blame for this shooting. Of course this is not correct. This individual would simply have used another manufacturer's product. We, as a nation, have to live and deal with what happened in Virginia and we will. But it is unfortunate that Europe uses a tragedy like this one to once again make the point that you think our president is incompetent and that we are a bunch of gun-toting thugs."
"As an NRA member for approximately 30 years, I believe extremely violent movies and video games are a much more likely cause of gun violence than is Charlton Heston," writes Janet Fuls of Cottonwood, California. "Guns have been easily available for 200 years in this country, yet the gun violence on the streets and in schools is a relatively new phenomenon. I've always wondered why the gun is blamed and not the perpetrator."
"I wish to let your readers know that the authors of these articles have little understanding of the facts about guns, gun control and the NRA in the US," writes Bob Hampton of Little Rock, Arkansas. "The 2nd Amendment is not an anachronism of history, nor an inconvenience it is second in importance only to the right of free speech (the 1st Amendment). Unlike Europeans, we Americans subscribe to the belief that personal rights and responsibilities are held by the individual, not by a group. And the NRA is not a nefarious group of misfits who seek to put guns in the hands of criminals -- they are an organization of individual members who want to keep the Democratic Party from transforming our country into the European model of gun ownership. From our point of view, the European gun laws represent a threat to individualism and liberty."
-- Daryl Lindsey
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