Posted 02.09.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | There are so many guns in the US that some are bound to be pointed at us all. We wring out hands, shed tears for parents and teachers, and we tsk-tsk their culture of extreme-gun ownership. We can do little about all this, apart from a shared sorrow and our oh-so-Canadian indignation.

This leaves us helpless, perhaps even vulnerable, and certainly this breeds frustration and fear. Modern society is entangled in fears. We are concerned about "safety" and "security", without wondering what those words mean in our lives.

This sense of helplessness in the face of American violence has room for positive steps.

I'm not sure what those steps exactly are and how effective they could be, but if any help us get over the latest shock from shootings, that's a plus. So, the first step we can do is study up on the facts.

The US gun lobby makes radical claims about citizens' need for arms. Those claims must be tested and questioned. With better data, we can free ourselves from the manipulations of those who profit from guns or who are funded by the North American arms industry.

We should also study the explanations for so much mayhem in the US. These range from the simplistic to the most complex, and, no doubt, the best explanations will be complex. There are many causes of violence, and those causes include the availability of firearms as well as untreated mental illness in our communities.

Lobbies like the National Rifle Association deliver clear, simplistic, and authoritative-sounding explanations, all of which fit their agenda of promoting gun ownership. Their famous line "guns don't kill people, people kill people" is the best of their crafted subterfuges.

The sheer number of guns in America is probably the simplest message on the other side: there are almost more firearms in the USA than people -- roughly 300 million weapons. People certainly kill people if there are guns handy.

A second level of complexity is the explanation that America's "culture of violence" -- gaming, music, movies, and TV -- promotes aggression as the solution to most problems. Add this to a society with embedded alcohol and drug addiction, a society with rampant criminality and gangs, there's no wonder Americans resort to weapons so quickly.

More complex still is the explanation which includes America's self-appointment as the world's cop. Cops are armed. Thousands of youths are discharged from the US military not only trained in weapons but at ease with violence and aggression from their war-time experience.

A final explanation is sheer population numbers. The more people, the more of everything, including violence. Over-population creates psychological stresses and becomes a time bomb in itself.

We are not reduced to helplessness; we can do something on each of these levels. The final may be the easiest: we are producing too many people. The world is crowded and competing for resources. We can do more than wring our hangs, if we don't just wait for the next disaster.


Copyright © 2013 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/02.13