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Paris and Gun Control

By Ryan P. O'Meara

In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made a bizarre claim at a campaign rally, arguing that there “would’ve been a much different situation” if the French people were armed. Before French officials were even able to finish counting their dead, Trump began pushing his political agenda.

Unfortunately, this was not the first time this year that Trump made a political argument about gun control in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in France. In January, he tweeted “Isn’t it interesting that the tragedy in Paris took place in one of the toughest gun control countries in the world?” after the attack against humor magazine Charlie Hebdo. Although French ambassador Gerard Araud mistook Trump’s old tweet for a comment on this attack and responded in a frequently circulated tweet that has since been deleted, the fact that there were any tweets from Trump to be confused about is disturbing. While these two events are different, Trump’s sentiment is not.

What Trump misses here is the fact that this is not about gun control. While preventing any tragedy is obviously important, gun control is about stopping criminals and the mentally ill from getting a gun in the first place. As tempting as it might be to think the opposite, loosening gun control certainly cannot prevent terror attacks. The attacks in Paris are what happens when trained soldiers from a terror state sets their sights on death and destruction.

As Paris has so tragically shown us, gun control cannot stop an act of terror. This tragedy is a perfect example of the unfortunate reality that no matter how diligently a country works to keep its citizens safe from senseless gun violence, a terrorist organization has the potential to make it all look insignificant in an instant. But if Trump wants to talk gun control, we must speak honestly. In France, the gun death rate per 100,000 people was 2.83 in 2012; in the United States, it was 10.69. One horrific ISIS attack does not undo years of successful gun control during which the death rate from guns was nearly four times lower in France than in the United States.

One attack does not mean that a theater full of disoriented and terrified concertgoers should be expected to wield pistols in order to defend themselves against terrorist soldiers armed with AK-47s and suicide belts. It is astounding that Trump could possibly think that a theater full of armed vigilantes would have been able to prevent such a coordinated attack. More guns are not the answer, but gun control should not even be the question.

Asking the French to become more violent versions of themselves is a victory for the terrorists seeking to create a more barbaric world. While we must not respond by arming Parisians, there is certainly a role for military intervention to fight ISIS. But on an individual basis, we must start not with guns, but with peace. The day after the shooting, an unknown pianist took his instrument to the Bataclan theater and played a chilling rendition of John Lennon’s pacifist anthem “Imagine.” How fitting that music was used as a defiant symbol of peace in front of a concert hall where terrorists attempted to destroy the spirit of a nation. We now have the opportunity to show just how badly they failed.

We must not allow the terrorists to win. When we are afraid to go to a concert hall out of fear of it becoming a war zone, the terrorists have won. Using such a horrific tragedy to score a political point about gun control thousands of miles away is not courageous. Only when good people begin to take back what ISIS has attempted to steal from us all with selfless expressions of love and peace do the terrorists truly lose.

Ryan P. O’Meara ’18, an editorial executive, is an economics concentrator in Cabot House.

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