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January 31, 2015

Gunning for peace


January 31, 2015


It is an age-old chicken and egg question. Does the prevalence of guns lead to more crimes or does the increase in crime rates force people to carry more firearms for protection? It all depends on which side you are on in the guns debate.
Following the Army Public School Peshawar tragedy, several measures were taken as a reaction to the enormity of the incident. Never again do we want schoolchildren to be forced on the front lines of the war on terror. Yet we are limited in the methods we can adopt to secure them from dangerous, audacious enemies who are not afraid to achieve their goals by any means necessary. Violence and weaponisation often follow in the wake of such events as there is an urgent desire to do something, anything to stop something so horrific from happening again.
The decision to expedite the hangings was largely applauded however, it has been feared and rightly so that in our haste to mete out long delayed justice, we may end up executing innocent people. Our justice system has never been famous for being free and fair.
The recent push to provide weapons and training to school staff in a bid to secure them against terrorists is also feared to yield several unwanted results. It is only natural to assume that if school staff is armed and trained, they might be able to prevent deaths and stop the assailants in their tracks. But it is never this simple.
Much quoted statistics on gun violence show that increased gun ownership leads to more deaths. Many of these are due to accidents. One shudders to think of what the presence of guns near small schoolchildren might lead to. We are also not famous for our attention to safety protocols.
The people who decide to attack schools don’t come unprepared. The terrorist outfits in this country are well-funded and run by people who know what they are doing. Attacks are usually well-thought-out and subsequent investigations reveal that a lot of knowledge and careful planning goes into

carrying them out.
The presence of CCTV cameras, barbed wires on boundaries, sentries on the walls will certainly act as a deterrent but only to a certain extent. How well teachers and support staff with limited training will fare against a group of well-armed experienced and violent men is a question one shudders to even think of.
Rather than handing over the responsibility of protecting their charges from danger, school staff should be left to perform their own duties. Weapons training is well and good but greater focus should be on evacuation plans, escape routes and properly conducted emergency drills. These are the areas we are falling behind in and have never really even considered much in the past which, while surprising given the number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, is not all that different from our usual apathetic response to danger.
One hopes that the new security measures will not just be limited to photo-op worthy weapons training drills and installation of security equipment. These, frankly, are little more than window dressing given the serious and imminent nature of the threats that we are facing. We as a nation need to realise that our habit of siding with violence has contributed in bringing us to the disastrous stage we are at today.
The need for a shift in thinking does not seem like a solution to terrorism but without it we will continue to serve as a breeding ground for terrorists and continue to suffer from losses caused by their actions.
The writer is a business studies graduate from southern Punjab. Email: [email protected]




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