Yesterday, I spotted a story about 36 people wiped out in a Barundi bar by gunmen. I found the story in my local newspaper after the want ads, tucked comfortably into the very back pages of the paper. [Click here for telegraph.co.uk‘s account] The rigid news story mantra—“if it bleeds it leads”—does not apply when it comes to small African countries, even though there has been a lot of bleeding in Burundi. We’re talking (or not) about 250,000 dead peoples’ worth of bleeding in this small execution zone. Of course, “civil unrest” in Burundi has been a brutal fact of life since 1993 . . .
That’s when Tutsi paratroopers assassinated the Hutu president, the first democratically elected leader in the country’s history. It was a rough way to register voter discontent and it set off an ethnic free-fire zone.
I know enough about the region to know that ethnic rivalries between the Hutus and Tutsis erupted into ethnic cleansing during the conflict. I also know that the issue will continue to be settled in blood- to the point where the slaughter of 36 people in a bar hardly makes a ripple over here in the media.
People get used to certain rigid patterns: there will always be bloodshed and upheaval in several African countries. It’s just not news for North America. For me, the story raised wider questions about an accepted shibboleth: an armed society is a polite society.
In the story, Burundi was described as “awash with weapons,” although the article also described the attack as “rare” (after 250k people have been slaughtered?). Were the victims of this particular atrocity unarmed lambs for the slaughter or were they armed and caught completely off-guard by the attackers?
More generally, do more guns always mean less crime? I don’t think so. I believe the easy availability of guns increases violence in so-called Third World nations, and maybe other places too. You?