Waking again to one nation under the gun

LP Columnist Barry Freeman
LP Columnist Barry Freeman
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Sleepy-eyed, head-scratching, curtains open, kettle on, coffee on, telly on, gunshots, screaming, flashing lights, motionless figures on the ground in middle distance...

Once, maybe, the dozy viewer would have assumed they’d stumbled into an early morning broadcast of some sub-par Die Hard movie or other, possibly starring Van Damme.

Innocent times. Now we twig at a glance. The Americans are killing each other with guns again. Is what they do. Incessantly. Just another grisly chapter in the dark romance that is America’s love affair with the gun and – I would suggest – violence as an end itself.

One feels no shock at such episodes any more; Sandy Hook drained the final reserves of that particular emotion three and a half years ago. Actually, no – I tell a lie.

The final shock to non-US systems came a little over four months later, with 20 murdered children under the age of seven (and six adults) by then long cold in the ground, when the Senate successfully blocked what tepid stabs at gun control Congress had passed for their approval.

Well, why would anyone want to do a thorough background check on a US citizen who wants to buy a machine gun for reasons unknown?

No, since this epic failure of democracy, the predominant reaction has matured into a blend of sorrow, confusion and, increasingly, slowly, sadly, indifference.

Not indifference to the victims, I hasten to add, nor the bereaved, for whom there can only be sadness and pity, but to the issue as a whole.

Because what can anyone do? What can anyone say? What can anyone think? What don’t they get across the pond which is so glaringly obvious to all beyond their shores?

Is it really possible for a nation at that level of technological and cultural sophistication to be hamstrung by a document penned more than 220 years ago – and, moreover, to a contested interpretation of one paragraph of said document – to the extent it cannot tackle a problem which every year kills around 30,000 of its own citizens?

Nothing we have seen in our lifetimes suggests otherwise, and each passing horror – followed hotly by a wall of coordinated obfuscation, obstruction and, ultimately, inaction – merely reinforces an old truth in our heads. It is impossible to help those with no desire to help themselves.