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Reflecting on the recent tragedy in Newtown in the United States and my many years in China, I can definitely conclude that one of the most comforting aspects of living in Beijing is the physical safety people enjoy here. Perhaps with the exception of crossing the street or driving here, which is admittedly always frightening and frequently potentially life threatening, people don't need to worry about being the victim of a violent crime.
Now, a few days after the latest of what is an all-too-common American tragedy, media attention has subsided to a simmer, and even an eternal optimist such as myself is extremely pessimistic about the possibility of reducing gun violence in the US, where according to Harvard Professor David Hemenway, a young child is 13 times more likely to be a victim of a gun homicide than in any other developed country.
Even if President Barack Obama, defying history and against overwhelming political odds, succeeds in fulfilling the wishes of the advocates of gun control, which, among other things, would require getting Congress to re-institute the assault weapons ban, imposing a prohibition on magazines holding more than 10 rounds, closing the gaping loophole that allows 40 percent of all gun sales to be free from registration or background checks to eliminate criminals or the mentally ill, and optimizing the abysmal information-sharing systems among various jurisdictions. And even if in this era of budgetary restraint, he can get Congress to expend hundreds of millions of dollars on mental health, gun safety education and the rest. The reality is little would change. Simply because of the prevalence of guns in the US, the attitudes of most gun-rights proponents, and the terror of single-issue politics.