Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Massacres and Money Making

Demonstrating a shirt's bullet-stopping capacity.
United States massacres may turn into a business opportunity for a Colombian company.

Miguel Caballero makes children's vests, backpacks, t-shirts and other wearable things that are (supposedly) bulletproof. Remember how mom sent you off to elementary school with the admonition 'Keep your jacket on so you won't catch cold,' or 'Wear your raincoat so you don't get wet'? Well, now moms can add a third warning: 'Keep your bulletproof gear in case a madman with a high-powered gun bursts into your school (or house of worship, or shopping mall, etc) and starts blowing holes in people'.

It's only practical good sense, after all.

Armor your kids today!
Of course, the danger from shootings has been wildly exaggerated by the massive media coverage of the recent massacre in a school in Connecticut. I'd be willing to bet that children stand in far more danger from a traffic accident on their way to or from school than they do of getting shot. But, nevertheless, I'm sure that some psychologically vulnerable, overprotective parents will take money away from their children's schoolbooks and computer funds to buy V-Bags, Puffer Kids, T-Shirt Kids and Safety Vests which will make their kids feel embarassed and uncomfortable and little safer.

But the totally insane thing here is that, unlike cold and rain, this is a danger which shouldn't exist at all. It only exists because in the United States high-powered rifles are sold so freely violent mentally ill people can and do buy or steal them and then start killing.

I suppose there's nothing wrong with Caballero manufacturing wearable bulletproof accesories for children - except that it makes totally unnecesarry threat seem normal and acceptable, when instead society should be addressing the cause - too many guns. The social hysteria reminds me of the Cold War paranoia, when many people, including schoolchildren, lived in constant dread of nuclear annihilation from the Soviet Union. But the U.S.'s gun threat is a completely home-made danger.

The U.S.'s gun lobby is already very powerful, and thrives economically on these massacres, which cause booms in gun sales. (I just wonder whether, in their hearts of hearts, gun company executives felt a secret thrill when this latest massacre happened, because they knew it'd mean huge new Christmas sales). But a gun protection industry will create an even stronger lobby. I'm waiting for bulletproof pews for worshippers to take cover behind, bulletproof store windows in malls, and on and on, until everyday life is lived in a paranoid fortress and a multi-billion firearm-industrial complex has grown up which will defend to its last dollar of profit the right to commercialize high-powered murder machines.

During the 1980s and '90s feature stories about Colombians using bulletproof business suits were regular fare for the international media, and deepened the country's image as one big free-fire zone. Altho it still has a serious homicide problem, Colombia has changed profoundly since the Pablo Escobar days. Interestingly, according to news reports, the company now sells 95% of its products outside of Colombia.

Now, the paranoia has shifted north, to the U.S. But, unlike the case of Colombia, which has long been victimized by global drug trafficking and drug prohibition policies, the U.S.'s mass murder problem is completely domestically-created.

Interesting Addendum:

The Canadian government made an awkwardly-timed announcement the other week celebrating "new market opportunities for its gun makers in the form of exports of assault weapons - which are banned in Canada - to Colombia. The announcement came the day before the assault rifle massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Those "new market opportunities" for Canadian companies are evidently a result of the recent Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

Since assault weapons are, thankfully, not available on store shelves here in Colombia, I assume that any "market opportunities" would be sales to the military or police. But those organizations have had serious human rights issues.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Ally Brown said...

great post

Andrew Scott said...

Absolutely correct. It is difficult to comprehend how the pro-gun lobby in the US carries so much political clout. A spokesman for the N.R.A.(National Rifle Association) said that less lives would have been lost in the Connecticut tragedy if there were armed guards in all of the schools. Disgraceful.

Miguel said...

Actually, the gun lobby's power isn't so surprising. Lots of other destructive industries have a near chokehold on U.S. government policy.
What this makes me want to ask is: 'What have we come to?'


Carlito said...

Guns are a problem but not the cause of spree killings; those exist also on countries where guns are "banned" (Colombia) and there are countries where you can freely buy guns but there are not this kind of massacres. I would search within the society... something has happened. In fact USA has had always the same gun policy, but the killings are happening just the last 40 years or so...

Miguel said...

Hi Carlito,

Gun ownership is restricted in Colombia, but gun possession is quite common among criminals. Nevertheless, while Colombia has had many massacres, I can't recall a U.S.-style 'killing spree.'
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But I believe that your thesis is also mistaken. Nations such as Britain, Japan, even Israel, with tight gun restrictions have much lower homicide rates. You're correct that people are behind killing sprees. But guns make those sprees much, much easier and more massively deadly.
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Carlito said...

Yes Mike, there is one very famous: Pozzetto. Maybe you read Satanas or saw the movie or have seen the restaurant; the akward part is that the guy, although colombian, fought in Vietnam enlisted as US soldier.

And you confirm my thesis: is not about gun restriction (with or without restriction it can happen) But you're right about the severity and number of the killings.

Miguel said...

Thanks. I had never heard of Pozzetto. But one man is one man. In the U.S.A. it's a pattern, an endless one.
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Yes, access to guns, and especially assault weapons, makes rampages much more deadly. The very same day the Newtown massacre happened a guy in China attacked a group of schoolchildren - with a knife. A bunch were injured, but all survived. The difference is obvious. Armies carry guns, not knives, for a reason.
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I can also imagine that many frustrated, sick, violent-minded people end up just getting drunk and getting into fistfights and that's it. But, when a weapon of mass murder is handy, they're likely to use it.
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