The Guns of America

In Canada we take government restrictions on the possession of weapons as the norm. There is a general agreement, even among gun owners, that possessing firearms is a responsibility, not a right.

There is from time to time debate about how intrusive governments should be in regulating firearms, but the basics, such as criminal record checks, metal health checks and training before purchase, are seen as reasonable. This doesn’t seem to be the case for our neighbors to the south, the United States. There, access to guns, be they long guns, hand guns or assault weapons, seems pretty much restricted only by the purchaser’s ability to pony up the cash.

There was another mass murder in the US last week, a lone gunman opening fire in a crowded movie theatre. This is not the first time this has happened (not even the first such killing in the past month!), and it is not likely to be the last. Each occurrence brings the issue of gun control to the public consciousness and each time there is consensus in the US that nothing can be done. The status quo must remain. Change, no matter how beneficial for the public good, cannot take place because of the political fallout.

That is an incredibly sad statement. People are dying because American politicians are too gutless to do the right thing.

While on vacation in Maine I read a piece by Washington Post reporter Joel Achenbach that was reprinted On July 26 in the Maine Sunday Telegram. In it he said “the political establishment has taken no action on gun laws in recent years however because the electoral math has inhibited efforts to challenge the gun lobby.” He also mentions that President Barack Obama says the inability to deal with the issue has been most frustrating.

This is an area where politicians need to lead, to step up and do what is right without regard to powerful lobby groups or electoral math. Leadership at times means you need to do what is unpopular – even if it ultimately costs you your job. The National Rifle Association (NRA) may be the most powerful lobby group in the USA. Their disapproval may guarantee defeat for any politician, incumbent or aspiring. But does that really matter?

The NRA’s mantra is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. This is disingenuous to say the least. The death count grows ever higher because people are using guns in their killing sprees. Unrestricted access to guns is contributing to the death of innocent Americans. Those in the NRA seem to have found a place to park their consciences so that this apparently doesn’t worry them.

Politicians though are elected to serve the people and protect society. Leaders should lead, even if that means making hard or unpopular choices. I you can’t make the hard choices you aren’t a leader, you are a follower. I would love to see some American lawmakers step up and say “this is enough,” to take a stand for the good of their country.

I expect to be disappointed. More Americans will die due to political cowardice. The United States is in dire need of leaders. I wonder if it will find any. 2016 is an election year in the United States, a perfect opportunity to discuss restrictions on gun availability and bringing an end to the carnage – but I doubt that anything will change.

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