America’s love affair with guns baffles me. Once again the United States was the scene of a mass killing. Last week a man killed nine innocent people and injured nine more at a college in a small Oregon town. In the close-knit community essentially all were touched personally by the tragedy. Lives snuffed out; some just getting going, others in their prime, by one man with many guns.
President Obama addressed the incident on television, giving Americans a piece of his mind. He is fed up and angry with these horrific events that happen so often, fourteen during his time in office – so far. It was evident that Obama, as a two-term president, was not pandering to voters, even if he did state that politicizing this shooting may be of benefit. Earlier in his term he may have been more concerned with presenting a balanced reaction, not offending the gun lobby..
But those days appear to be over. Obama’s tone was similar to a principal at a general assembly reading the riot act to a student body that insists on undertaking dangerous and asinine acts.
Republican Jeb Bush took some flak for adopting a ho-hum approach, saying that these things happen. Sadly he was correct. But that does not mean they should be tolerated.
As an armchair sociologist observing things from across the border, the gun culture is one entity that never ceases to amaze me. I’m not referring to the combat-clad-assault-rifle-toting wackos. I mean the average citizen, husband or wife, son or daughter, educated or not, student or professional, maybe religious, maybe not, who has a gun or guns. Why? It is inconceivable to me.
There was an episode of the sitcom Frasier in which the two Crane brothers throw their public support behind a candidate for office. He appears to be all they could ask for in a representative until he casually, just in passing, mentions that he had once been abducted by aliens. The brothers are struck dumb. This cognitive dissonance is akin to what I experience when I encounter pleasant, sane, evidently intelligent people who then mention their guns.
Some say it is a matter of personal protection. Isn’t that what trained police officers are for? Unlike their counterparts in the US, most police chiefs in Canada are in favour of strict gun control. It’s a matter of keeping their men and women safe.
For instance Chief William Blair of the Toronto Police Service said regarding gun control and the cessation of a national gun registry: “We’ve seen a fairly significant decline in the number of firearms seized by my firearms unit this year because the information that they once relied on isn’t available to them. If someone was prohibited from possessing firearms and they had firearms registered to them, we would go and get them. Now we have no idea.”
Without fail whenever one of these awful shootings takes place the topic of mental illness is brought up to explain the shooting. In an ideal world mental illness – in fact all illness – could and would be eradicated, but we do not live in that world. Mental illness cannot be removed from the equation, but guns can. Would it not make sense, in a society where mental illness is difficult to control, to limit the availability of guns in everyone’s interest?
In what appears to be an example of the inmates running the asylum, there are areas in various US cities into which police are loath to go. Huh? In New Orleans, after a recent rise in armed robberies, citizens in the area adjacent to the French Quarter have posted signs encouraging visitors and locals alike to walk in large groups. This is not some small enclave in a backwater third-world country, this is The Big Easy, home to the Saints, great music and food.
When it comes to guns and gun control, Americans tend to shoot themselves in the foot. If only that was the extent of the damage.