When I first moved abroad and told Europeans I was from outside of Chicago, the first thing they did was point a finger, pull an imaginary trigger and say, « Bang, bang Al Capone…America so dangerous. »
Thirty years ago the first time my Frenchman and I took a road trip in the USA into the wilderness of Wisconsin, no less, he insisted on carrying a baseball bat in the car. With each new senseless mass murder, our ruthless image as the Wild West grows more prevalent abroad.
I have lived overseas more years than in my homeland, yet remain a proud American. The values we hold so true – freedom, equality, and democracy shaped the person I became. But as tragedy strikes again in the horrific shooting in an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut, and our most innocent victims are massacred, I am filled with questions. As movie goers in an Aurora Colorado theater on opening night of a Batman movie and bystanders in a mall in Oregon are killed by a madman, I question our “liberties”. At what point does the individual right infringe upon the rights of others to live peacefully in society?
Every year just over 30,000 people die in the US from gunshot wounds. Every two years, more US citizens are killed by gunshot wounds than were lost in the entire Vietnam War! When did shopping malls, movie theaters, elementary schools become target ranges?
To someone who lives on the outside looking in, the one fundamental right that remains a part of our constitution, the right to bear arms, no longer makes sense. Fewer guns in circulation equals fewer casualties seems like a no brainer.
As a society, we mandate no smoking in public places, we imprison drug dealers, fine drunk drivers and set limits on products that we know in the wrong hands can be dangerous for individuals health and safety. Yet anyone without a criminal record over the age of 18 can go to the nearest Wal-Mart and purchase hand guns and rifles and order 6000 rounds of ammunition on-line without raising suspicion. More alarming still, gun dealerships out number McDonald’s 9 to 1!
Americans nerves are shot. Reasoning skills may be at an all time low. Minds, even bright, well educated minds like James Holmes, are deranged. We want to add to the mix semi automatic weapons that can shoot rounds of 60 bullets in a minute and that are powerful enough to penetrate 3 bodies at a time.
Tempers flare. Anger escalates. Brains short-circuit.
The social climate – stagnant economies, high unemployment pressure – is not so different in Europe, yet the homicide rates are much lower abroad except in Switzerland which compares with ours. Switzerland has more homicides per capita than any other European country due to the availability of guns in the home. So much for the image of the pastoral, bucolic mountains valleys. Though Switzerland maintains neutrality, military service remains mandatory. Every man serving must keep a gun in the home by law. Historically, Switzerland wanted to be able to defend itself. In the nuclear age of atomic weapons, that reasoning no longer makes sense for a tiny country bordered by Italy, France, and Germany which would be easily obliterated in seconds.
Swiss logic is as insane as defending American’s Second Amendment, the right to possess a gun in order to form a militia. Militia? You mean gangs. The right to bear arms made sense when American battled for independence and to conquer the West, but today? Self defense? Hunting? How many bullets does it take to shoot a rabbit?
In Switzerland, a recent gun law to require military weapons to be kept on base (instead of the home) was shot down. Yet the incidence of homicide within homes is growing greater.
Violent films and video games are popular in Europe and gangs and violent crime exist;however, statistically it is a lot less than those seen in America.
Think of the last time you experienced road rage, argued with a spouse or belligerent teenage.
Now imagine the same scene if a weapon was within reach?
Given the intensely competitive, highly charged digital modern society, and the fragility of social structures to prevent human derailment, do these laws really make sense? Stand your own ground. Right to bear arms. Right to concealed weapons.
Today is not the day to question our policy. Today is a day to mourn. To grieve for loss of innocence for a shot into the heart of humanity that rang round the world, for dreams of a nation destroyed in an instant.
But tomorrow America will have to answer some tough questions. Ironically, demanding the right to bear arms will destroy our freedom to circulate freely in society.
Billboards will advertise the next feature attraction …Coming Soon… for consumer safety body scanners (like in airports) used at theaters, concerts, grocery stores, and grade schools.
That image is not reassuring.
If the act of giving up your weapon could bring back the life of an innocent child gunned down at school just days before Christmas, would you be willing to sacrifice your right to bear arms?