The United States has a deep rooted issue when it comes to weapons and the citizens’ libertarian attitude toward problem solving (I’ll buy my own gun – I can handle my own safety better than the government can). Further, the American culture has adopted a militaristic attitude as international issues put stress on Americans that suggest the nation shows signs of slipping as the number one nation in everything. Typical of cultural change, we tend to ignore the change itself and go on living our daily lives – taking note only of the growing number of gun events that make the news. Noting these gun events in the news, the most common compromise is to admit that some people, let’s call them ‘mentally disturbed,’ should not have guns. Therefore, there should be universal record checks whenever guns are bought or sold.
Although well intentioned, this tit-for-tat response to the American gun issue is misdirected. Who, at a given moment, should not have access to a gun? Any of us! One example to explain.
Remember Oscar Pistorius? He is an Olympic athlete called Blade Runner because he ran on spring prosthetics; both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old. On Valentine’s Day in 2013, Pistorius and his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp were having an argument. Steenkamp locked herself in the bathroom. Pistorius shot through the door and killed her. He was convicted of culpable homicide. There is an effort by prosecutors to retry him for murder. For a video of Blade Runner, see:
Oscar Pistorius cannot be called one of those ‘mentally disturbed’ individuals; no psychological test could identify him as other than a normal human being. Yet, in a rage, he used a handy pistol to demonstrate his ire. How many of us have known rage? With each of us having a gun around, we might say, “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” What if Oscar had no gun? Would Reeva still be alive? Would Pistorius still be a world renown athlete?
One last example. Too frequently, small children kill parents and siblings for many reasons. Are these children “mentally disturbed?”
People don’t kill people. People with guns kill people. To attack the gun issue at the cultural level, the US must seriously consider Australia’s legislative action to ban the sale of guns in addition to registration and illegal use. As in Australia, violence is an issue in the US. That so many feel the need to own a gun is a bellwether of how our culture has moved from civility to barbaric paranoia. Canada has banned the sale of guns.
When mariner was nine or ten, he had no defensive reflex when he saw a policeman. Policemen walked their beat then, swinging their shillelagh artfully around the thong. Occasionally, one could hear them whistling. The policeman visited each shop owner for a bit of small talk, checked locked doors, covered every block and every alley. It wasn’t long before the policeman knew most people on his beat and even had a good idea where trouble may arise – many times preventing an incident rather than responding too late. In troublesome neighborhoods, two would walk along together. The quickest access to backup was a phone every few blocks that looked like a parking meter. In a word, policemen were civil.
Today policemen travel in elaborately decorated vehicles. The vehicles are called “cruisers,” which is the same image as a bunch of rebellious youth “cruising” – both looking for trouble. Today, policemen don’t protect people; they wait for an event and bring a militia armed with military vehicles and weapons. Too many times, policemen shoot first and think later. Not so civil. The transition of police from protectors to militant enforcers is another bellwether of cultural change.
Utilizing a trite comparison, the Roman Empire ruled the entire known world by military might; Roman citizens cheered blatant torture and death of animals, religious ‘deviants’, criminals, and the big sport was armed warriors fighting to the death – by the turn of an indifferent thumb. Those were not civil times.
The gun issue cannot be solved by reacting to day-to-day incidents. It must be stopped at the beginning: ban gun sales – an improbable event given the level of civility in the US.