Four people have been killed in a one-man shooting spree in the US state of New York. I’m sure it’s of great consolation to their families to know that they were not the victims of a massacre.
Earlier this year, my family and I had a good (but bitter) laugh over an interview on 7.30 (ABCTV, 17/01/2013) with Larry Pratt, President of the Gun Owners of America, in the course of which Mr Pratt claimed that gun ownership prevents massacres rather than facilitating them. To support this, he quoted an incident in which a massacre was short-circuited (only two deaths instead of the necessary five) because a ‘good guy’ in the mall pulled a gun on the shooter. Even my thirteen-year-old grandson and his friend – for both of whom explosive computer games are all in a day’s fun – were gobsmacked by such flawed logic.
Mr Pratt then went on stress the importance of gun ownership … so that the Government is mindful that there’s only so far it can go and the people can protect themselves against tyranny. I find this attitude to democracy rather worrying in a country where only 50 to 60% of the population bothers to vote, and it’s estimated that between 35 and 42% of households own guns. (Definitive statistics are not available as there is no national database of gun ownership.) It’s also an argument that, taken to its logical conclusion, suggests Lee Harvey Oswald could have cited the second amendment as his defence in the shooting of JFK, on the basis of the President’s perceived tyranny regarding America’s possible stand against Cuba. The ramifications of that are endless.
Mr Pratt was also unimpressed by the absence of Australian massacres since the introduction of new gun laws in 1996. We’re not interested in being like Australia, he said. We’re Americans. Well, forgive my parochial and unsophisticated outlook here, but I’d rather be Australian than shot.
It makes Americans very sad, apparently, that so many people should be mentally ill, uncontrollably angry or otherwise misguided that they collect an armoury and come out with guns blazing. Where has society gone wrong? they ask. What I ask is, how can the most powerful and influential country in the world get away with being so childishly, arrogantly and irresponsibly stupid?
I’m sure thousands are scrabbling for their pens to say that this is none of our business. But it is. What America does affects us all. That’s the price they pay for being top dog in a global society – and the price we pay for keeping our mouths shut. The American gun culture is shoved down our throats every day, from TV and movie ‘entertainment’ to that obscene practice of embedding journalists in war zones. Are we really naive enough (or complacent enough) to think we’re immune? The US has no problem interfering in the domestic policies it doesn’t like in other countries. What sort of wimps are we that we allow our fellow global citizens to be massacred without protesting against the conditions that make this not only possible, but frighteningly easy? And given the American love affair with guns, perhaps inevitable.
I realise that the butterfly flapping its wings in rural Australia is unlikely to result in a tsunami that overpowers the NRA and the Gun Owners of America, but the least I can do is practise what I preach and protest as loudly as possible. I am also aware that many people will regard my attitude as simplistic. That would be because it is, and I make no excuse for it. I don’t care what the political, financial, social or cultural ramifications might be of depriving Americans of their guns. The bottom line is that hundreds of people are dying unnecessarily, randomly and at the whim of fellow citizens who own guns because they can. No excuse outweighs human life. Do something.
Despite Newt Gingrich’s claim to the contrary during his (fortunately abortive) Presidential campaign, the right to bear arms was not bestowed by God. It was drafted by ordinary men operating in another country – the past. It’s time the US grew up and looked honestly at its own 21st century instead of messing with other people’s. Because otherwise, We’re Americans will not be greeted with shock and awe, but with disgust and derision.