Opinion: America Needs to Deal With Its Gun Culture
The best was seen in the mechanics of one of the world's greatest democracies, in the engagement of its functionaries with the people they represent, and in that selfless heroism of ordinary people who do not hesitate to have a go and tackle a man with a gun in his hands and
hatred in his heart. The worst, of course, was that the gun and the hatred were coupled.
There has been much talk of the polarization of politics in the United States, as if having a lively debate about how a country should be run, what its values are, and how its people relate to and help (or not, as the case may be) one another is the inevitable precursor of violence. It isn't.
Political polarization does not necessarily entail people killing one another. The conviction that violence is a legitimate way of resolving problems does. Add the means, and you've got a recipe for disaster.
I appreciate that the importance of the Second Amendment in American culture is largely inexplicable to an outsider, but when the debate that is so vital to any democratic system is blamed for some sad idiot going out and shooting somebody, surely people have to question
the widespread availability of arms. "Guns don't kill people, people do"? Actually, it's people with guns that kill people.
One can never entirely guard against the deranged souls who think (if that's not too strong a word) that "I believe X, you believe Y, I must kill you." However, it is legitimate to look slightly askance at a society where otherwise perfectly civilized, decent people can defend the right to bear arms yet pretend this has no bearing on the pervasive culture of violence and the appalling statistics that accompany it.
The United States is not the most violent country in the world. But when you look at homicide statistics proportionate to population, the nations that are more violent are places like Belarus, Colombia, Estonia, Guatemala, Latvia, Mexico, Moldova, Paraguay, Slovakia, Ukraine and Zimbabwe. For the most part, the countries with which a modern democracy ought to be comparing itself have a homicide rate around a quarter of that in the U.S.
Everybody makes choices and everybody must live with the consequences of their choices. If you choose to have ready access to guns, don't be surprised if people use them, above all those least equipped with the training, tolerance, self-control, respect for others and sense of
responsibility that ought to be the minimum requirements for carrying a deadly weapon.
Heated debate is not lethal. Even heated debate plus guns is not necessarily lethal. Inadequate people ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of the modern world plus guns, now that is dangerous.
Taking the inadequacy out of people is something we have failed to do for several thousand years. Disarming them ought to be a whole lot easier.
London-born Charles Davis is a writer of literary fiction, including the novels "Walk On, Bright Boy" and "Walking the Dog," and more than a dozen walking guides. Read his blog on Red Room.