Gunning for it

By | Category: Travel rumblings

There’s an awful lot to love about America. It’s a country of legendary road trips (Route 66 anyone?), big cities (here’s looking at LA, Las Vegas, the Big Apple et al), beautiful beaches (Santa Monica, Miami, Montauk…) and great food – from BBQ in Texas Hill Country to lobster and clam bakes in New England.

But even the most ardent of America admirers, has to acknowledge that the US of A is far from perfect. For one thing the US is gutless is about guns. I don’t agree with everything that outspoken former CNN host Piers Morgan says (see his views on professional cricketer, Kevin Pietersen) and does, but I fully support his crusade against guns in the States.

On average, approximately 32 Americans are murdered by guns every day with a whopping further 140 injured. Stir into the mix suicides and accidental shootings and a staggering 32,000 American citizens are killed by guns every single year. According to the website Shootingtracker.com, there have been 125 mass shootings so far this year alone.

I vividly remember the Columbine High School massacre of April 1999 – where 12 pupils and a teacher were shot dead before the two teenage gunmen committed suicide. More recent mass shootings include the Sandy Hook, Fort Hood and Washington Navy Yard (where a gunman killed 12 and wounded four in a rampage)  attacks. And yet despite the aforementioned tragedies, America’s gun control laws remain the loosest in the world. It truly beggars belief.

guns

 

Regardless of all the evidence that suggests more guns result in more murders (by forbidding almost all forms of firearm ownership, countries such as Japan have virtually eliminated shooting deaths), America is reluctant to ban guns. Perversely parts of America actually see guns as good, as I discovered on a recent trip to Texas.

While in the Lone State, I found myself charmed by the Texans I met who felt – after just 24 hours – like friends. They were happy to share their world with me and that included their views on guns.

“Guns are good,” I was told, on more than one occasion. Gun owning is a way of life in Texas: there’s believed to be about 51 million guns in the Lone State for a population of 26 million, with boys being given their first pellet guns at eight – perhaps as a birthday or Christmas gift.

The cowboys I came across professed that possessing a gun is a crime stopper. “We have a right to protect our property and nearest and dearest” they frequently opined before adding: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

My response? “I share your passion for Texas [if you’ve not been, do put the Lone State as at the top of your American itinerary] but I don’t share your stance on guns, guys.”

In my mind it’s no coincidence that America is especially prone to gun shootings given the relatively easy access to automatic weapons. However so extravagant is the American concept of freedom and so deep rooted is the pollution of firearms of all kinds throughout the country – combined with the fact that gun lobbies like the National Rifle Association (NRA) contribute over US$16 million annually to state and national political campaigns – that there is little prospect that the latest massacres will provoke a meaningful shift in attitudes in America.

There is something about the human pathology that seems determined to hate, to become predatory and to kill. Our international enemies or our countrymen, it does not matter. Yet perhaps we should not be surprised at the recent massacres. For some reason, people like to kill. And we like to watch people get killed, in our living rooms, on the television, at the cinema and on computer games. For whatever reason we like movies filled with violence and we are equally entertained by Mafia movies and so on.

It is time to find out what is wrong with us: we’re supposedly the most advanced, the most civilized, the most privileged, the most tolerant, the most educated and compassionate society ever to populate the earth – yet can’t stop killing each other and we don’t seem to care enough to find out why can’t stop killing each other.

The Newton and Navy Yard massacres both  happened in America. However every society possesses its madmen – the UK is no exception. But in Britain, it is much harder for these lunatics to find means to pursue their terrible ends given that guns have been removed from private hands.

Bottom line? People are dying every day in America because its citizens have access to guns: it’s time to put them down.

“When we live in justice we will not need to be silent before the fallen. They will not fall.”

 

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