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”

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