Facebook Slider


Optional Member Code
Get News Alerts!
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:38

Guns and Knives: A Tale of Two Tragedies

  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print
  • Email


One of the major differences in the outcome of the shootings in Newtown and the knifings in China was that "Chinese parents [are] visiting their children in a hospital as they recover, … American parents are mourning theirs lost forever."

On December 23, less than ten days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that left 20 young children and six adults dead in Newtown, Connecticut, David Keene, a longtime conservative political activist and currently the president of the National Rifle Association, went on national television and attempted to conflate gun ownership with owning a knife or a baseball bat.

In a column responding to the Newtown Massacre, the conservative evangelical Christian movie critic Ted Baehr made it clear that gun control was not the answer to stopping mass shootings. Baehr claimed that in countries that have strict gun control laws, knives and “headbutting” were “out of control.”

Both men were likely referencing an incident in China, which occurred at the same time as Newtown, where a knife-wielding man injured 22 children in an attack in an elementary school. 

"In a rare moment in history, twin tragedies connected the United States and China on Dec. 14," journalist Wen Liu recently wrote in a piece for contextchina.com titled "Knife vs. Gun as Chinese Reflect on ‘Children’s Sorrow Day’."

"A gunman in Newtown, Conn., forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children and six adults. In Guangshan, in China’s Henan Province, a madman wielding a knife attacked Chenpeng Village elementary school and injured 22 children and one adult."

A major difference between the two tragedies is that while "Chinese parents [were] visiting their children in a hospital as they recover,” American parents would forever mourn their lost children.

Wen Liu’s thoughtful column came to my attention shortly after I had read a commentary by Baehr, a very popular conservative evangelical Christian movie critic and commentator on media affairs.

In a piece titled “Who's to Blame for Colorado Theater Shooting?” Baehr made the now oft-heard claim by a number of religious right leaders -- Dr. James Dobson, Bryan Fischer, Mike Huckabee, Franklin Graham amongst them -- that the Newtown Massacre was the result of America turning its back on God.

Some people will blame it on guns, although countries that have tried hard to crack down on guns, like England, are now finding that knives and headbutting are out of control,” Baehr wrote. “Thus, it isn’t the headbutting or the knives, but the fact that people are stewing in the juice of their own wickedness, because, as the Bible says, they don’t know the loving God who gave us a way of salvation through Jesus Christ from the wickedness of the human heart.”

(I have reported on the Christian Right’s claim that Newtown-type events are caused by America turning its collective back on God in two recent columns: “The Religious Right’s Shameful Exploitation of Newtown Massacre,” and “Leaders of Christian Right Respond to Newtown Massacre, Fail to Mention Guns.”

Now, gun owners and the NRA are advancing a new and equally wrong-headed and facile frame; Beware of the knife and the baseball bat.

Gun Advocates Focus on Knife Crimes

One small but noteworthy trend has emerged in the wake of the massacre at [Sandy Hook] Elementary [School]: A sudden focus (bordering on infatuation, in some cases) on knife crimes among gun rights advocates fending off calls for assault rifle and ammo bans.” a piece posted at throatbird.com recently pointed out.

The NRA, its defenders, and John Birchers are increasingly making the case that mass-casualty knife crimes in China and Britain — countries with tight gun control laws — prove the old people-kill-people mantra used by the NRA and gun manufacturers for decades.”

In a piece for The John Birch Society’s The New American, Thomas R. Eddlem argues for the elimination of “no gun zones.” Eddlem maintained that in their zeal to focus on guns, the mainstream media hasn’t been vigilant enough in covering widespread deaths by knifing. He also argued that the lower number of gun deaths in Western European countries has less to do with gun regulations, and more to do with lower percentages of young minorities.

During his Face the Nation interview, the NRA’s David Keene told host Bob Schieffer: "Driving is a privilege, and owning a firearm... is a constitutional right. The fact that something is misused, whether it's a baseball bat, or the mass killing in a Chinese school with an axe and a knife, doesn't mean that you ban baseball bats, axes and knives or guns."

According to throatbird.com, this NRA-sponsored frame belie statistics: “Very few mass casualty events over the last 100 years have involved knives — and the ones that have used cleavers, hackers and hammers seem to be confined to China for reasons linked to culture, poverty and the paucity of privately-owned guns.

Of the 15 worst school massacres, for instance, 13 involved guns and two others involved bombs or flamethrowers. Two — the aforementioned China rampages of in ’06 and ’10 — used knives, but there’s no telling what the killers might have done if they had access to more efficient methods of murder.”

Throatbird.com pointed out that “The numbers, again, simply don’t support the argument that bats, axes, knives or golf putters pose anywhere near the threat as a Bushmaster, Glock or Colt. Nationwide, the number of people killed in non-mass incidents is equally weighted towards guns, despite the widespread availability of cutting objects (you don’t need a background check to buy a meat cleaver at Wal-Mart), and their common use in violent, domestic disturbances.

Of the 12,644 homicides committed in the U.S. in 2011, 68 percent (8,583) were the product of gun violence.

Knives or other cutters were the culprit in 13 percent of cases, or 1,694 deaths, according to the FBI.”

Wen Liu’s observation bears repeating: “Chinese parents,” whose children were victims of a knife-wielding man are now “visiting their children in a hospital as they recover.” In Newtown, American parents whose children were victims of unbridled gunfire “are mourning theirs lost forever."