Ten years ago, I was overseas chatting to a young American traveller. The Sandy Hook massacre of kindergarten children in Connecticut had just happened and I asked his views on it and on gun control. He stunned me with a shrug of the shoulders and a comment about how he didn’t see the need for tighter gun laws and he appeared to be neither upset nor fazed by just another shooting. I was shocked.
As the years have gone by, we have been sadly listening to more accounts of shootings in the general community in America and in schools. This week has again horrified the world and the same platitudes are dragged out as a panacea to the horror.
Have Americans become inured to this level of violence? How many times can American politicians offer prayers and thoughts for the families and victims of gun violence? We have heard these words repeated again and again as the next shooting headline grabs the world’s media. Dreadful images of parents in paroxysms of grief hit our screens. Silently we parents thank God that it is not our children, that it is a world away from us. Yet our empathy is real as we feel the depth of their pain and suffering.
But the words ‘prayers and thoughts’ ring hollow and hypocritical as the majority of the elected leaders are either powerless or too gutless to confront the powerful gun lobby.
From an Australian perspective, the tragedies seem incomprehensible and the lack of action deplorable. Most Australians look back at our own tragedy at Port Arthur deeply saddened by what happened, but at least gladdened by the action of the government and the people to drastically alter our gun laws.
Australia is often used as an example of how decisive action can happen after a national tragedy and how governments can enact laws to protect the vulnerable.
US Senator Ted Cruz made claims that altering gun laws would not alter crime in America. He was making a slide in the argument from the random shootings by mentally ill or attention-seeking sad individuals to that of the world of criminality. Crime on that level will always exist but why make guns so available to every attention-seeking 18-year-old who can live stream their murderous actions via Facebook or Instagram? Surely the two realms of behaviour are radically different. Most crimes are motivated by greed not attention. Most criminals don’t go around shooting innocent children en masse.
Senator Cruz also suggested that teachers in US schools should be armed – a ludicrous suggestion lacking in wisdom, intellect and understanding. What teacher goes into that profession with a desire to wear a gun holster on their hip and pretend to be Dirty Harry? What effect would that gun-wearing behaviour have on the young of America? Traumatise them even more? Evidently many schools already run drills on how to stay quiet while locked in a cupboard in case a mad gunman stalks the corridors of their school!
As a teacher, I shake my head in disbelief and despair for my colleagues in America. Several of them died protecting their charges. Heroic yes, but they should never have had to take that action in the course of a day at work.
Senator Cruz should hang his head in shame. I bet he doesn’t risk his life every day by going to a Senate that’s surrounded by guards and privilege.
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