Michael Gale

Can we reign in gun violence?

Once again we have the horror of a person with problems and issues acting out in a violent manner this time taking the lives of so many young children. Our reaction as humans and as parents in visceral and emotive. The horror is palpable and most humans can instantly relate and imagine with dread how we would feel if it was a child we love. But all the hand wringing and round the clock media analysis won’t do a thing unless we have the courage to take action. If ever there was an issue that needs courageous and determined political action this is one. The President of the United States made an immediate and compassionate address reaching out to the victims but even he in a moment that is so black and white and where there is all the moral legitimacy in the world to speak about the gun issue lacked the political capital and moral fortitude to do so. It was never even an issue during the recent presidential camping as nobody has the courage to touch the issue. It is a testimony to the power of the gun lobby and the sheer financial might behind it. But the real problem is simply cultural. There is no point regurgitating all the statistics. Every person who can read knows that the US stands alone amongst the industrialized world in providing liberal access to military weapons and protective combat gear to ordinary civilians who have no police or military role or training. This equipment has no other purpose or application than the killing of multiple humans in a very short time. It allows for maximizing the kill ratio before law enforcement can stop a shooter. Even the most ardent gun lobbyist and NRA cardholder knows this in their heart of hearts even if they don’t admit it. Gun control works. It has flaws and takes time but it works everywhere in the world and would in the US. The problem is that a large number of people do not want gun control. Some of these people are of course making a lot of money out of the proliferation of arms amongst the civilian population. But the big problem is there is a significant number of people who equate gun control with a loss of liberty, government control and an erosion of their independence, sense of self-worth and their very identity as Americans. You can meet these people at any event, bar, family gathering or mall in the country. Many, though by no means all, are white males who are struggling to achieve the American dream. The right to own a gun is often wrapped up in a resentment of immigrants, a distrust of political correctness and in some cases a distaste for gender equality, gay rights and a whole grab bag of things seen as undermining the America of the 50s and 60s that they believe in where to be white and male meant to be assured of a good and stable role in a middle class society where you had self-respect and understood your role. Of course this is often an idealized nostalgia for past that was never that rosy but it has a strong hold on many people’s psyche, just listen to a lot of popular country music and you hear these themes loud and strong. So much of what is good about the American sense of identity is the belief in independence and self-reliance, it’s what makes America the greatest country on earth through all of time, but somehow this has all got wrapped up in a lot of other less laudable prejudices and views. In the end it is almost seen by many as patriotic to be pro-gun. Ultimately it is these people we must reach out to and confront them with the logical conclusion of this line of thought. Do you really want to see small children, college students, theater goers, random people at malls, places of worship and in the workplace shot because you would rather see that happen again and again rather than confront your own fear of change and feelings of inadequacies? The “small man big truck” phenomenon is a funny and clever joke but when it translates to guns it’s not funny at all.

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