More guns please, we’re stupid

There have been some strange, odd, bizarre and downright wicked statements made in the few days since the school shootings in Conneticut last week. The familiar bunch of right-wing and (allegedly) religious whackos have claimed that tolerance of homosexuality and/or the continued legality of abortion meant that God allowed that hideous crime to be committed while he just stood by and watched. Interesting stuff, though if I was God, and I was seriously pissed off about something, I’d tell people why I had allowed bad things to happen. You know, eliminate the middle man. To allow any two-bit huckster with a Bible and a freephone number to speak on my behalf would certainly not happen if I was God. Not on my watch. No, I’d take great delight in telling people why I was enraged. But not this God, apparently. No, he does it by proxy, via YouTube, and via any charlatan or con-man who wants to tell us why God is upset. For crying out loud, even if “He” does exist, if this is the way he decides to conduct his business then I’m not interested, because he’s clearly incompetent and delegating important work to people that I wouldn’t trust to sit the right way round on a toilet.

Staggeringly, in the wake of the shootings I’ve heard people suggest that it is the absence of guns from American schools that is the real problem. No, you didn’t misread that. They think it is the absence of guns from American schools that is causing a problem. Here’s a comment from a website I visited today (the comment was posted on Saturday 15th December, the day after the killings):

The solution to gun violence in schools is to train teachers in the safe and effective use of firearms.  We need to have numerous teachers in each school armed and ready.  When schools cease to become “gun free zones” then school gun carnage will stop. 

Yes, he’s being serious. Interestingly, he ended his post with the words “God save our Republic”, which is a kind of verbal tick that so many Americans seem to have. Why would God want to “save” a particular country? Actually, don’t answer that. Trying to calculate the reasoning of a being who allegedly allows six-year old children to be shot to death because abortion is legal is surely a fruitless task. We should also leave aside the utter illogicality of punishing abortion by allowing young children to be killed in school (these people are so dumb that they probably can’t see the contradiction there) because these people don’t “do” logic or anything even remotely close to it. They just pick their favourite hobby-horse and tell anyone who will listen that God’s punishment is being visited upon them because (a) they like gays (b) they allow abortion (c) they don’t go to church (d) the President is a socialist (e) Kansas City Chiefs are having a bad season, etc etc. There are numerous phrases to describe this kind of thinking, but “fairy story bollocks” is my favourite.

But let’s say that American schoolteachers get nicely “tooled-up” some time soon. Then what? Well, I won’t make a prediction, but in my old school the body count would have gone through the roof if the teachers had been armed. I’ll mention no names, but there would be a number of them about whom I would have been seriously worried had they had access to a firearm.

The RE (Religious Education) teacher was a violent sadist with just a wooden ruler in his hand, so what he would have been like with an assault rifle I have no idea. Not nice, I’d guess. Perhaps “Double Geography” with a Northern Irish borderline psycho, who supported Manchester United and who punched you when he felt like it, would have been more interesting if we’d known that he had a pristine Uzi in the top drawer of his desk. Perhaps I would have taken more time to commit to memory the rock formations of the Brecon Beacons, but there again he may well have shot me dead when he noticed me taking bets on who was going to win the Cup Final. A nice English Literature lesson with Mr Croft could easily have been spoiled by the sound of Dwyer’s brain splattering against the wall as a result of his failure to give Banquo’s death scene his full attention. Mr Phillips may well have got better results out of the cricket team if he’d threatened to kneecap anyone who scored a “duck”, but I doubt it.

Then, of course, we would have had situations where the pupils got hold of the teacher’s weapon of choice. No matter how much Mr Taylor begged for his life, Bishop would eventually have shot him, even if he had been promised an “A” in every French test for the rest of his time at the school. He hated him so much. And at the end of a four day siege, Mr Burnett would have ended up cold and lifeless on the chemistry lab floor, pumped full of .22 calibre slugs, but only after Spicer had made him do a “down-in-one” on a pint of hydrochloric acid. It would have been carnage.

So, just one question, America: the day a teacher goes loopy and shoots an entire third-grade class with his government-issue submachine gun, what then?

Kalashnikovs for kids, just like in Afghanistan?

"... and every school will have its very own intercontinental ballistic missile. Marvellous"

“… and every school will have its very own intercontinental ballistic missile. Great idea.”

Time to wake up, America?

The answer will, of course, be “No”. America will hit the “snooze” button, roll over and go back to sleep. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown. Yeah, whatever.

The latest mass killing in Conneticut will bring with it the usual impassioned speeches. Everyone will say that this should be the last time, this is the line in the sand, this is the watershed moment. It won’t be. Some time soon there will be another mass shooting, probably in another rather quiet American suburb where such a thing, so its inhabitants thought, could never happen. Not here. But it will.

Americans appear (to this outsider) obsessed by their “right” to defend themselves with a gun. They appear unable to contemplate the fact that constitutions are written by people, for people, for the general good of the people and should quite rightly be amended when situations change. Laws and constitutions should never be written in stone, impervious to change, unable to be moulded for the greater good of everyone within that society. Why can’t Americans seem to understand this? In the UK we had Hungerford and Dunblane. Steps were taken, controls were brought in. We took action. Maybe similar events were prevented, we’ll never know. Similar events may occur in the future, we can’t be certain that they won’t. But the point is that we reflected on those two horrendous episodes, wondered if there were lessons to be learnt, and did something. What are Americans doing? Standing around not wanting to be accused of being” anti-American” if they voice the opinion that maybe something should change? If so, that’s pathetic.

Remember Charlton Heston, the now deceased former actor and one-time president of the National Rifle Association? Remember his speech where he told the US Government that they could only take his guns away from his “cold, dead hands”? (I have no idea whether they took him up on his offer when he popped his clogs. I hope they did). It summed-up a certain attitude to rights in general. That if you have a right to do something, you should. Without question. And to not do so is somehow un-American. To fail to own a gun merely gives “them” (the government, the police, the army) an advantage over the citizens of the nation. When even George Bush Senior resigns from your organisation because he thinks it’s getting a bit carried away with itself (Bush resigned from the NRA in 1995) then it really is time to stop and think:

“Guys, even George Bush thinks we’re a bit nuts”.

American gun ownership levels are quite staggering. There are 89 guns per 100 people, far and away the highest figure for any country on Earth. Even Yemen, that lawless hell-hole on the Arabian peninsula, has ownership levels barely half of that of the USA. In Japan, a modern and developed 21st century society with many of the social problems that go with that, gun ownership is less than 1 per 100 people. Most years, total Japanese gun murders are in double-figures. In the USA in 2008, there were 12,000. Or four World Trade Centres, if you prefer.

What is this peculiar attachment to the notion of blowing away “fellow Americans”? The Second Amendment owes much of itself to the 1689 English Bill of Rights which allowed for the personal right to bear arms. But that was over three hundred years ago. Things were different back then. The militias of the revolutionary era should be consigned to history. The weapons available to people back then were vastly inferior to the weapons available now. No-one these days goes on a rampage with single-shot muskets, they tend to go with automatic or semi-automatic weapons. We have created armies and police forces to which we have ceded the “monopoly on violence” (as Max Weber termed it). We can’t even carry a knife around with us without pretty good reason to be doing so, and quite rightly too. I don’t want the “right” to own a weapon that can so effectively and efficiently terminate someone else’s existence. And I don’t want other people claiming that same right for themselves either.

People will say that the “genie is out of the bottle” or some such other nonsense. That taking steps towards greater gun control at this stage is to embark on a virtually impossible task. I hope these aren’t the same people who whoop and cheer and applaud every time any two-bit politician calls the USA “the greatest country in the world” or “somewhere where anything is possible”. “Anything” obviously doesn’t cover giving schoolchildren a greater chance of coming home to Mum and Dad when school’s finished for the day. Emotional? Yes. And if kids being shot in their classrooms by lunatics doesn’t stir the emotions, then check your hands.

Like Mr Heston’s, they’re cold and dead.

"Free, to shoot who I want, any old time"

“Free, to shoot who I want, any old time”