We learned today that the Aurora mass shooting is as big a story around the world as it is in the U.S., but the reaction is not. A headline in Norway's largest newspaper captured the disbelief in other industrialized countries in the wake of the tragedy: "Stricter Firearms Is a Non-Issue Even After Massacre." That headline, shown above, appeared in Aftenpost and while the article exaggerates the lack of domestic debate in the U.S.—it claims the deaths have "not led to any national debate on stricter gun control"—it does tap into a feeling taking root in countries with stricter gun policies: How can America continue to drag its feet on gun control?
In Germany, where several barriers exist to owning guns, especially semi-automatic weapons, the level of opprobrium runs thick. A cutting headline in national newspaper Berliner Zeitung reads: "America Remains Silent and Prays," noting that in the U.S., where the probability of being shot is 40 times greater than in Canada, England or Germany, politicians are too afraid to challenge the gun lobby. "The reaction is always the same: shock, disbelief, sadness, prayers, repression," writes the paper. "How can it be?" Meanwhile, German network N-TV ticks off a range of stats about America's gun violence, such as 100,000 gunshot wounds per year and 31,500 gun deaths per year.
In Britain, home of some of the toughest gun laws in the world, The Guardian has been at the forefront of denouncing the American opposition to gun control. "America has had more than its share of deadly shootings, but there is scant hope of a change to gun laws," reads a damning editorial. "The difficulty is not just checks, balances and partisanship, it is a great swath of voters." In a column, Alex Slater asks "How many gun deaths does it take for American politicians to crack down on the availability of deadly weapons?" Answering the question to his own disbelief, he adds "Seemingly no number is high enough." Meanwhile, at The Herald in Scotland, the editorial board attributes the political stagnation on Americans' belief that the "right to bear arms" is a "totemic liberty."
In France, where gun laws have become even stricter following a recent killing spree that embroiled the country, observers were puzzled at the lack of response. "Obama Can No Longer Avoid the Issue of Weapons," reads the headline in France's TFI News. In Japan, which forbids almost all firearm ownership and reported just two homicides involving guns in 2006, stacks upon stacks of guns were depicted in an AFPBB news story, noting that "American gun society unchanged, even after massacre." As we noted during the health care debates earlier this year, welcome to America, world!