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'None Dead' in China: Sensible Laws vs. Maniacal Attacks

8,000 miles away from Connecticut, a vicious attack on school children has only one grace: all survived

- Beth Brogan and Jon Queally, staff writers

On the other side of the world and just hours before 20 children were gunned down in a massacre in Connecticut on Friday, 22 children were the victims of a vicious, similar-minded attack at a Chinese elementary school by a man wielding an 8-inch knife.

"In terms of the U.S., there's much easier availability of killing instruments—rifles, machine guns, explosives—than in nearly every other developed country," said Dr. Ding Xueliang. (Photo: weibo.com/tanglaoba) Just as brutal and as nonsensical as the murders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the incident in Henan Province, China had an outcome that victim's families now mourning in Connecticut are only wishing they could share.

The sliver but potent aspect of good news? As of Saturday morning, none of those 22 children attacked in China had died from their injuries.

Unlike the US—where mass killing after mass killing reveal how the prevalence and accessibility of automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips make killing easy for the deranged or enraged—China's strict guns laws make such incidents nearly impossible.

"The huge difference between this case and the U.S. is not the suspect, nor the situation, but the simple fact he did not have an effective weapon," Dr. Ding Xueliang, a Harvard-educated sociologist at the University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong, told CNN. "In terms of the U.S., there's much easier availability of killing instruments—rifles, machine guns, explosives—than in nearly every other developed country."

The guns used in Friday's massacre in Connecticut, according to reports, were a Sig Sauer and a Glock, both handguns. A Bushmaster .223 M4 carbine, which is a semi-automatic military-style assault rifle, was also found at the scene.

US Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), told CNN that "other developed nations such as Germany and Canada see hundreds of fatalities from guns each year, instead of 9,000 or 10,000." And added, "There's a reason for that."

Barbara Demick in the Los Angeles Times wrote Friday that bloggers in China were praising their country's strict gun laws in the wake of both incidents. Demick wrote:

Zhang Xin, a prominent real estate developer and one of the wealthiest women in China, deplored the lack of political will in the United States.

"Really, why can’t these politicians put aside their difference and prohibit the sale of firearms?" wrote Zhang Xin, in her widely followed microblog on Sina Weibo.

As Shanghaiist notes, China has seen its own trend of violence targeting young children since 2010. Other knife attacks have been used by the National Rifle Association, rightwingers and other pro-gun lobbyist groups to argue that strict gun laws don't stop violent acts. But, as the publication adds, "societies which allow their citizens easy access to firearms, of any type, are placing their citizens at a far higher risk of death and injury than those that do not."

Citing statistics by the Center for Disease Control, Prof. Peter Dreier points out that in 2011 (the most recent year available) "there were 15,953 murders in the United States and 11,101 (30 a day) were caused by firearms. Suicides and unintentional shootings account for another 20,000 deaths by guns each year."  Dreier notes that many more people are injured—some seriously and permanently—by gun violence each and every day.

"It is no accident that the United States ranks first in the world—by a wide margin—in gun-related civilian deaths and injuries," Dreier said. "Compared with every other democracy, we have the most guns per capita and the weakest gun laws."

In addition, he notes, the danger isn't simply the number of guns, but the types of guns that make the US such a dangerous nation.

"Other countries permit hunting rifles," Dreier said, "but many Americans believe it is their right to own an assault weapon." Such weapons, which can fire rapidly and need minimal reloading, have been consistently used in shooting massacres—like the one Newtown on Friday—that result in the highest casualty rates.

The United States hasn't passed any gun safety legislation since 1994 and lawmakers allowed the "assault weapons ban" to expire in 2004.

The calls for new gun laws were loud and clear on Friday and into Saturday.

"If we’ve reached a point where our children cannot attend school without fear of being gunned down by a homicidal maniac who has obtained easy access to firearms," said the Coalition to End Gun Violence, "then the freedom we cherish as citizens of the world’s greatest democracy is at risk of extinction."

"If elected officials cannot find their voices now and call for change—if NRA campaign contributions and threats continue to dictate their decision-making, taking priority over the preservation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—what will it say about them?"