Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The subject of gun control resurfaces from time to time, usually when something horrible has happened. The latest tragedy in Connecticut is the most horrific that I can recall. Rather than offer the standard condolences to the victims’ families, I’d like to posit that when something like this happens it’s a tragedy for everyone. It isn’t just something horrible that happens to somebody else. It’s an indication that something is dreadfully wrong in our society.
In my opinion the endless debate about gun control is missing the point entirely, which is why is this even happening in the first place? The simplistic answer is that guns are cheap and easily available. However, the sad fact is that banning guns won’t do much to stop a truly determined psychopath. Somebody has already offered Timothy McVeigh as evidence for that one.
The uncomfortable fact is that tragedies like this happen on a fairly regularly basis here in the Land of the Free, but pretty much not at all anywhere else. (I think there might have been an incident in a German school several years ago.) It can’t be attributed simply to the presence or absence of guns. For example, the Swiss have guns in their homes. Men between the ages of 19 and 35 must serve in the Army and they keep their guns at home. Yet murders are so rare that they make front-page news. In the entire decade I was in Bern, the capital of the country, there was exactly one murder. A deranged man ambushed a girl walking home from the train station and stabbed her to death. It was front-page news all over Switzerland, and it had been more than ten years since the previous murder in Bern. And it didn’t have politicians clamoring to ban knives.
I don’t have any theories about this, except that Europeans in general and the Swiss in particular are extraordinarily formal and so polite that they seem positively frosty by our standards. They are generally well-educated, don’t watch much TV, and the consumerism so rampant over here hasn’t made many inroads in Europe, except maybe Britain.
In the meantime, here’s something that should make you very, very worried. According to the Huffington Post, Arkansas has officially become a police state. You will be stopped and questioned simply for walking your dog. I don’t live in Arkansas and don’t plan to go there any time soon, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t a good thing.

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