The Straits Times
Published on Dec 19, 2012

America's senseless gun culture


THE loss of young lives in last Friday's massacre at a suburban school in Newtown, Connecticut, is heartrending, and no one should have to go through such an experience ("School massacre: Children were shot multiple times"; Monday).

When I was on a business trip to Utah in October this year, I visited a Wal-Mart store to buy some toiletries and was astonished to find guns being sold at the sporting goods section.

In a mall nearby, there was a Dick's Sporting Goods store, which was selling shotguns and rifles as well.

The number of guns on display was enough to equip an entire infantry company of over 100 men.

According to reports, gunman Adam Lanza used a semi-automatic Bushmaster .223 M4. I saw this rifle on display in both Dick's Sporting Goods and Wal-Mart.

What struck me was that it looked exactly like the M-16 carbine assault rifle I used during my National Service, right up to the retractable stock.

I remember live-firing the M-16 carbine; the rounds were powerful enough to punch through steel barrels and concrete blocks.

The bullet head rotates and, upon entry, drills a progressively larger hole, leaving a 5cm-wide exit hole.

That is why assault rifle shots are so deadly.

We were taught not to take cover behind cars and thin concrete walls for they afforded little protection as the bullets would be able penetrate them.

The only difference I could discern between the rifle I used as an NSman and the Bushmaster .223 M4 was that the Bushmaster could not fire in full automatic mode.

But this is not a liability to its lethal use. Even in the army, we almost never fired our assault rifle in automatic mode. The recoil from multiple rounds makes it hopelessly inaccurate.

I have visited many countries on business and leisure. The United States is the only country I have been to where guns are so openly available.

Even in Israel, where the military personnel are allowed to take their weapons home, guns are not sold openly.

It cannot be that all other countries are in error on gun control. It cannot be that only the US has achieved the correct balance on this issue.

The easy accessibility of guns in the US is wrong. Last Friday's massacre makes this painfully obvious.

Lim Ee Cheong