gun should have one" my elderly writer friend said to me in an e-mail. She is an American and she lives in Connecticut. The e-mail came to assure me, "Nobody in the family is directly involved but we are all shaken to the very core of our collective being". I knew she lives some distance away but it was a relief to hear from her. Her usually fine English prose sounded stilted. There were errors. Her distress poured from the page.
"It is easier to accept an accident through human error or a natural disaster but this should not have been able to happen."
No, it should not have been able to happen. She has long opposed the "gun lobby", the National Rifle Association and anyone else who believes in "the right to bear arms". She believes there is no such right.
I can barely imagine the unspeakable tragedy. Communities do not recover from that sort of tragedy. They move on because they must but it will always be there at the back of their collective consciousness.
It puzzles me that the airline industry has now gone to extraordinary lengths to try and prevent passengers but the United States is apparently unable to deal with the problem of gun ownership. The "right to bear arms" is apparently enshrined in their constitution. There is no doubt they saw it as necessary when the founding fathers wrote their constitution. It is a right people do not want to give up - even if others have to die because of it. I am profoundly grateful that there is no such "right" in the Australian Constitution - and that the United Kingdom has seen fit to try and reduce the use of all weapons.
My father is strongly opposed to guns and any sort of gun culture. He is almost a pacifist, although he says that he would defend his family. We grew up in the country where farmers owned guns. "Going roo-ing" or "going spotlighting" (the killing of kangaroos at night under spotlights on vehicles) was a popular pastime in some places but the vast majority of farmers saw their guns as essential tools to put an animal out of misery as quickly and humanely as possible. Guns were not "toys". They were not there for "recreational" use. Farmers did not "want" them in that sense. They needed them.
Of course we are not immune to mass shooting. Australia has the Port Arthur incident. The shooter will never be released. He is not sane. We still do not have the sort of gun culture or ownership levels that the United States has. I hope we never have it. Our Prime Minister at the time of the Port Arthur massacre was John Howard. He had no constitutional right to bring in gun ownership laws but, leading by example and force of personality, he succeeded in getting the states to do something about the situation. Since then we have had no mass shootings although, sadly, we have not managed to eradicate all gun related deaths. The UK has similar legislation in response to the unspeakable tragedy at Dunblane. Gun control works.
I know one person who owns a pistol in the metropolitan area. She is a Paralympic medallist. Her chosen sport has allowed her to attend events around the world. She would not have got to any of those places without being a pistol shooter. I also know she would have foregone all that experience if it could have prevented the most recent tragedy.
Nobody who wants a gun needs one.