Some Are More Equal Than Others
How does gun control work in other countries? There is one case with which I am familiar. In the Philippines where gun ownership is theoretically highly restricted, a private permit to possess a firearm is a highly coveted status symbol. It's a society where some are more equal than others and that extends to firearms. According to the BBC:
There are more than 800,000 licensed gun owners in the Philippines, but millions more firearms are owned illegally. ... Although carrying guns in public is already illegal, there are a multitude of exemptions. Movie stars, judges, politicians and those living under death threats are all currently exempt.
Not only does the number of unlicensed weapons dominate the distribution, but these are preponderantly used in the commission of crimes. "Interior Secretary Jose Lina said earlier this month that unlicensed weapons were involved in 85% of gun-related crimes in the Philippines."
Much of the motivation for getting a private firearm in is rooted in a distrust of the police. In the BBC article, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo expresses the desire to restrict gun ownership to the police and the military. But "when asked about corrupt policeman linked to crime gangs, she promised to "jail the rascals in uniform". Very few people believe that assurance, least of all "movie stars, judges and politicians" and so they continue to get their private weaponry.
The degree to which private gun ownership represents a social and financial investment is reflected in the opposition of legitimate gun importers to the registration of unlicensed firearms in amnesty programs. An amnesty would destroy the monopoly rents of legal importation and diminish the status symbolism of owning a firearm.
In a statement sent to media, the Association of Firearms and Ammunition Dealers (AFAD) said the government's gun amnesty program would deprive the government of much-needed revenues “that should have otherwise been derived from duties and taxes had the guns been legally imported.”
“It encourages unscrupulous individuals to smuggle firearms into the country with the knowledge that the government will eventually implement similar gun amnesty programs,” the group said.
One prominent gun control advocate, a columnist for Leftist newspaper, told her critics that if they wanted home defense, they should simply hire an armed security guard. It was a "let them eat cake" moment, but it did point out the vast role that private security has in that country. One tourist reported his amazement at the ubiquity of security guards on his blog:
Despite the friendly nature of most people I’ve met here so far, there have also been moments where I haven’t felt terribly safe at all. That security guards seem to be present everywhere you turn does nothing to make one feel any safer – quite the opposite. Some of them carry nasty looking batons. Most of them are also packing holstered pistols. But some of them even carry pistol-grip shotguns. Shotguns? What’s going on here?
7/11 stores have armed security guards. Nearby to the hotel I’m staying in (Richmonde Hotel), the Mega Mart shopping mall has security guards at every entrance. They’re not just there for looks either – they do indeed pat you down as you enter and it gives one a feeling of insecurity, as opposed to what I imagine is the desired effect. I was so surprised by this that I took a photo of one of the entrances (pictured below) and believe me when I say it didn’t make me popular. In fact, the male security guard made a grab for my camera, although the determined look of resilience on my face deterred him from taking it further. I asked why it was necessary for such stringent security measures and he refused to answer my question. I suppose they don’t really want tourists to know how unsafe Manila can be to visit.
Not just the 7/11 or mall but the bank branch, pawnshop, restaurant, hospital, gated community entrance and apartment building. Lots of places. And remember, that's just the licensed stuff. The net effect is that while the 2nd Amendment doesn't exist in the Philippines, in many places the actual density of firearms is quite high. The upside, if you are looking for it, is that it would probably be impossible for a single demented person to run rampage through a shopping mall without being drilled in short order by someone with a gun.
The ideal situation would be one in which absolutely nobody owned a gun. Then nobody would need to own one. It's an amazing but true fact that in pre-War Manila, the police went on their patrols unarmed, like the British bobbies of an earlier period. The War and the Huk Rebellion and rising poverty after Independence changed all that. Today, "gun control" in that society must really be recognized for what it is: gun redistribution. With millions of firearms already in circulation, gun control becomes closely associated with politics and even class warfare.
None of these observations is directly related to events at Virginia Tech, but they may provide some perspective.