Essays · News


by Akumbu Uche

You must be familiar with the details by now: at a Colorado screening of the latest Batman movie, a young man opened fire in the darkened theatre room, killing 12 people and wounding 58 more.

This is the menu Al Jazeera and CNN have been dishing out lately, sandwiched between the tugs of war that are Red America versus Blue America, pro-Assadists versus anti-Assadists and the gist is trending, not only on the Internet but in the newsroom where I work.

When we are not pitching, covering or filing our own news reports, you can find us, rookies and veterans alike, discussing, debating and opinionating.

Stricter gun control, get rid of guns, the individual’s right to bear arms.

Echoing the panelists on talk show after talk show, our discourse is mostly about guns.

I remember similar debates stemming from similar headlines – Columbine, Virginia Tech, now Aurora.

I also remember a similar incident that occurred closer to home; in South Africa, a young man caught his girlfriend and his housemate in a compromising situation. The day after, the disgraced lover picked up a loaded rifle that just happened to be laying on the table and shot dead the adulterer; he too had also once been his lover.

Naturally, it caused quite a stir and fuelled the newspaper industry in that country but the news was not broadcast via satellite TV and Facebook links. Instead, I read about it in Nadine Gordimer’s book, The House Gun*.

In the novel, the young man’s actions posed a challenge to his lawyer’s track record and to his parents, a shocking quiz.

Was it mental insanity, inability to deal with trauma or uncontrollable anger on their son’s part or was it neglectful parenting on their own part?

Beneath his professional detachment, Gordimer’s fictional judge may have also felt compelled to cast blame somewhere, seeing as he proclaimed in addition to his sentence,

It is unfortunate that a deadly weapon, a gun, was casually accepted as part of the household…. (pg 258)**


But that is the tragedy of our present time…. Part of the furnishings in homes, carried in pockets along with car keys, even in the school-bags of children, constantly ready to hand in situations which lead to tragedy, the guns happen to be there. (pg 267)


On my TV screen, I watched someone say, a knife couldn’t have done that much damage. I disagree; hatred and fear not bullets are the ammunition in situations like this.

In my continent as in yours and yours too, many a massacre, many a war, many an accident have been made possible by some kind of blade. Let’s not forget too, that every day; explosives are made from ordinary domestic cleaning agents.

The question of the gun problem (as with nuclear proliferation) has its place but it seems to me that we place much more emphasis on the weapon of choice and not the individual’s choice.

The way I see it (and I may be wrong), an object is only as useful or useless as its handler’s intent.

Club, guillotine, machete, arrow, chemicals, anthrax, H-bomb, drone. All become destructive when our killing instincts are aroused. Aroused by what? Annoyance, insults, threats? What makes man desire, decide to kill his fellow human being?

Do we then blame Godlessness, moral decline, power without discipline or our evolutionary origins? What is the root cause of the rise in mindless, devastatingly bloody violence the world over?

That is a more challenging question but it can start a thread and that’s a conversation I would like to participate in.


*You may also want to read We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.

**Citations are made from the1998 Penguin Edition.


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