Editorials, Guns here and there; and Panama’s character

General Noriega’s Dignity Battalions (CODEPADI) militia, a lot of whom were government workers, some of whom were thugs (and some, both). Automatic weapons were distributed in great numbers to these folks before the 1989 US invasion. When the attack began some fought bravely and well, but overall they did not amount to a significant military force. After the invasion many of their weapons were used in a great national crime wave and that experience informs Panamanian attitudes about guns.

Can we get down to reality about guns?

Gun LAWS, and gun POLICIES — those are complicated things about which to argue in the USA. They are much less complicated in Panama.

Would someone want to impose Panamanian gun restrictions on US society? To be fully enforced it would involve removing weapons from tens of millions of households, and a head-on challenge to a long-standing body of law.

We had a vice minister who started was US gun seller advertising talk in Panama, a man who said that more and more powerful weapons in public circulation here would make the country and its citizens safer. He found a little bit of libertarian support, but to most Panamanians he seemed to be something of a nut case, his ideas about our gun policies were rejected and when he was removed there were no demonstrations in his favor.

Let’s get down to basic facts, after which we can marshall other facts and invoke philosophies for arguments that can go all sorts of ways

A firearm in the house does not make the members of the household safer. It makes it a more dangerous living situation. This is statistically shown in many countries, in settings both urban and rural, in high crime areas and in places without much of that sort of social problem.

The notion that if everyone can carry a gun then crime is reduced because a criminal gunman will be shot down by a non-criminal gunman is false. Sometimes it happens that way, but quite rarely. In Las Vegas, where the gun lobby has managed to get Nevada gun laws pretty much as it wants them to be, most of the 30,000 people at that concert had a right to carry a gun and surely some of them did. Nobody in that crowd shot back at the sniper. That’s in line with the experience of almost all mass shootings everywhere.

Do people involved in dangerous businesses need guns for protection? Many are the tales of armed gangsters shot dead. The safe thing is to stay away from the rackets, not to go about an armed life of crime.

Take the “for protection” argument out of consideration. It’s a delusion.

Beyond those basic facts we can freely debate whether Jesus Christ would want a senator who waves a pistol onstage at his campaign stops, or whether the Las Vegas sniper’s right to ear protection by silencers on his weapons should have been superior to his targets’ ability to hear what was going on and seek cover.

Set all that lunacy aside and still many jurisdictions, Panama included, might argue about the value of firearms hunting seasons. Panamanians in particular might want to talk about a constitution that calls for a militia commanded by the police in lieu of a military force, and what that implies about ordinary citizens’ ability to use and maintain weapons. Gun laws, and gun policies, actually are complicated questions.

But let us consider such questions without fallacies that are propagated for the purpose of selling guns.


Is it about the books that we consider holy?

Panama, a small country of modest wealth, has sent assistance to our Mexican and Caribbean neighbors in distress because of natural disasters.

Is it because we are a Christian country? Nominally, we are mostly Catholic, with many Evangelicals, thriving Jewish, Muslim and Hindu communities, denominations of still more faiths, and a large and undercounted group of non-religious individuals and families. It’s noteworthy that the private business most often mentioned in stories of Panama’s relief efforts is mostly Jewish-owned.

Panama is The Crossroads of The World, with many sorts of influences. If there is something universal about ordinary human decency, we are affected by it. And so we answer the call to help neighbors in distress. We are not divided by faith or philosophy when it comes to this part of our national character. This is who Panamanians are.


Bear in mind…


It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.
James Thurber


The reason the Christians have murdered on such a vast scale and killed anyone and everyone in their way is purely and simply greed.
Bartolomé de las Casas


Better remain silent, better not even think, if you are not prepared to act.
Annie Besant


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