Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sowing and Reaping

Even here in rural Newfoundland, we have been following the events in Tucson, AZ, where Democratic Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot, along with 19 other people.

I share the feelings of many who believe that the toxic atmosphere created, largely, by the right-wing political and media machine helped make this crime possible. David Brooks' column on how it was a matter of one man's mental illness is wishful thinking, in my humble opinion.

As we were driving down the North Shore Highway two days ago, I was speaking with Finnian about what happened. Naturally, at just-about-14, Finnian doesn't have a broad perspective on such events but he does have a kind of clear insight that comes from not having too much information rattling around in his head. His response was, "why was a guy who was clearly mentally ill able to buy a gun?!" He just couldn't understand it. And rightly so.

As we continued to drive along, it occurred to me that nearly every single house that lines this road contained a gun within it. Many children learn to use guns at a fairly early age, and I have read glowing newspaper stories about young girls about the same age as Finnian who have shot their first moose. This kind of gun use is celebrated. Yet Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest crime rate in Canada, which is saying something when you consider the differences between the crime rate in Canada compared with the US. The vast majority of crime here involves stealing - violent crimes against other human beings are very rare. It should be noted that guns in Newfoundland and throughout Canada are strictly regulated and most people own hunting rifles, not hand guns, and certainly not the kind of automatic weapon that was used in Arizona.

My belief is that it isn't so much the gun regulations that make crime with a gun so rare here, although no doubt that helps. My sense is more that turning a gun against another person here is socially taboo. It is simply unthinkable.

As I was writing this, I heard a story on the radio about how, if anything, people in the US are using the events of the weekend to arm themselves more heavily and how calls for more gun regulation will be ignored. Not only is there no social taboo against gun crimes, the reality is quite the opposite - people proudly speak of arming themselves against others.

Given all this, I see it as completely predictable that incidents such as this will continue to happen. Really, what is surprising is that anyone thinks it is surprising.

No comments: