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Violence is Not Part of American Democracy

In response to the suggestion of a Russian reporter that political violence is inherent to America’s democracy, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Thursday strongly condemned the shooting that occurred in Tucson, Arizona as well as politically motivated violence in general. “That is not American,” he declared.

Gibbs had praised the event in which Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely wounded in last week’s assault, was participating earlier during his remarks, describing it as an “exercise of some very important, very foundational freedoms to this country: the freedom of speech; the freedom to assemble; the freedom to petition your government.”

Democracy and self government, “by and for the people,” are quintessential American values, Gibbs added, “that have been on display along with the tremendous courage and resilience of those in that community and throughout this country that have had to deal with this tragedy.”

Andrei Sitov of the Itar-Tass news agency wondered though whether the freedom of a deranged mind to commit terrible crimes wasn’t just as quintessentially American. “No,” said Gibbs, “I would disagree vehemently with that.”

There is nothing in the values of our country, there’s nothing on the many laws on our books that would provide for somebody to impugn and impede on the very freedoms that you began with by exercising the actions that that individual took on that day.

“Violence is never, ever acceptable,” Gibbs added. Yet in different parts of Europe the news of the Arizona tragedy was followed by renewed reprehension about, if not outright denunciation of America’s gun laws.

The discussion has been revived in the United States as well but in a very different context. At times, Europeans may be quick to forget that America has a very different gun tradition and a very different gun culture. These elements should not be absent from a sensible debate.

In most of Europe, private gun ownership is either banned or subject to heavy government regulation and control. In America by contrast it is regarded as a fundamental right that is enshrined in the country’s constitution. It is part of many Americans’ sense of freedom and self determination. To approach the issue from a European perspective would be ignorant and misguided. To suggest that gun related or politically motivated crime is somehow intrinsic to American democracy is simply preposterous.

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