Thursday June 20, 2024

Land of guns

By Naeem Sadiq
July 04, 2020

This is the story of C, an imaginary police force of an imaginary city K, located in an imaginary country P. Thus it may be fair to start with a disclaimer ‘any resemblance to real persons, entities or events is purely coincidental’.

As the population of P began to expand disproportionately and its governance began to shrink, many in the land of P started to adopt the noble profession of kidnapping. This occupation offered windfall profits even to those who had no educational qualification or prior experience. The only investment required was a gun, which could be easily purchased, stolen, snatched, borrowed or taken on rent. The demand for legal and illegal guns in P shot up and so did the bribes associated with their licences.

As kidnappings increased, the affluent section of P’s society began to feel very insecure. The ransom value being pegged to the size of the bank balance, the rich had much more to lose. A visibly nervous delegation of notables approached the governor and sought protection. The governor agreed to set up a new organization C, to fight this menace. Staffed by highly motivated and honourable citizens, C rapidly began to track and apprehend kidnappers. Its approach however was reactionary. It went after the kidnappers but not the root cause.

As the benefit-to-cost ratio of the kidnapping profession declined, gun owners quickly switched to a sister industry called ‘carjacking’ that required almost identical skill sets. C responded by setting up a new department which maintained vehicle data and tracked car thieves across K. Once again, C was in a reactive mode, completely failing to eliminate the instrument that caused the crime.

As news of these lucrative professions spread, the city of K became flooded with weapons. In a span of 20 years, the number of guns jumped from 18 million to 44 million. People began to opt for part-time lucrative professions of cell phone snatching at traffic intersections, rather than 9-to-5 jobs. A gun was a guarantee for quick money – a personal mobile ATM. C, K and P continued to fight a losing battle, hiring more staff, installing more cameras and establishing more helplines. Always focusing on symptoms, but never the causes.

Not known as great book readers, the people of P land began to trash the few books they had and opted for guns instead. All power, prosperity and positions in P revolved around guns. With guns you could not just snatch a car or a phone, you could also enslave people, get cases decided in your favour, order a shutter-down for the city, burn factories, kill policemen, form fascist political parties, and get elected to National Assemblies. The first and the last task of every prime minister before stepping in or out of the PM House was to invariably distribute weapon licences to himself and his cronies.

With a cache of over 100,000 prohibited bore weapons, the P Parliament soon became the world’s most militant and least democratic parliament. It began to blatantly violate the constitution by unanimously passing resolutions for prohibited bore weapon licenses for itself and the Parliamentarians began to organize their own private militias. The gun licence department had a field day issuing millions of fake gun licences – for a price paid under the table.

With every new crime in the town, C opened a new department. Starting with the department for kidnapping, there were now departments for car lifters, phone snatchers, drug addicts, cycle thieves, watch muggers and even wallet pickers. As time went on, the size of C kept increasing while its performance took a nosedive. C,K and P never understood that if only they had focused on eliminating weapons, P could have become a progressive, peaceful and modern state. Alas there were no Howard Zinns in the land of P who could smile and say, “They have the guns, we have the poets. Therefore, we will win.”

The writer is a management systems consultant and a freelance writer on social issues.