Thought Leadership

This cannot continue

By Colin Walls

Today I am going to break my self-imposed rule, with regard to what I discuss in this blog, and touch on two subjects that I normally avoid: politics and religion. I normally avoid these because most politicians are idiots, who have no understanding of the real world, which means that most politics is just a farce, but a lot of people take it seriously. I find religion very interesting, but do not subscribe to any particular faith myself; all “believers” therefore think that I am wrong because I do not sign up to their program.

The events of recent days have touched me, as they have people all over the world, which is why it is clear to me that something must change …

First, I will position myself on these contentious topics. Politically I am somewhat libertarian, measurably left of center. In the US, I would be labeled a socialist. I would like just enough law to keep us from anarchy and I would want my government to focus on, what to me are, the 3 main marks of a civilized society – education, social and health care, defense and security – and keep a sensible balance. On religion, I am agnostic, as I am not brave enough to be atheist. Although I do not sign up to Christianity, I do feel that using the Bible as a broad guide to how to lead a good life makes sense. What little I know of other religious texts [like the Qur’an] suggests that they would probably do the job just as well.

The news that has moved me so much, as you can probably guess, is the latest school shooting in Newtown. This is a senseless tragedy for so many families. By itself, it would be a disaster. But it is a far from isolated case. There have been so many of these terrible events. I am just thankful that we have not yet become so desensitized that we do not care any more.

The annual death rate resulting from firearm usage in the US is over 10,000 people. That is the population of a small town. Every one of those deaths was a tragedy. If such a high death toll resulted from a terrorist incident or a military act, the armed forces would be mobilized and action would be taken. But what does the government do about these thousands of deaths? Nothing. That’s what.

My first thought is to look at the numbers for other countries and see what we can learn. I will keep is simple and look at 3 countries: US, UK [my own home] and Canada [US’s nearest neighbor]. Last year’s deaths from handguns:

  • UK: 8
  • US: 10,728
  • Canada: 52

An obvious difference between the US and UK is gun law. In the US, it is very easy to obtain a weapon and a lot of people assert their constitutional right to do so. In the UK, it is very hard and I have never met anyone who expressed a feeling that personal security is lacking as a result. This would lead to a conclusion that the US should simply enact a law like ours. There are two problems with this. First, the constitution would need to be adjusted and I am told that this would be hard. Second, there is the question of Canada. They have relatively free and easy gun laws, but they seem to manage to refrain from killing each other for the most part. I cannot explain this paradox, so I am unsure what the government can do.

Maybe religion can help. The Bible is quite clear on the killing issue: “thou shalt not kill”. Although there are different interpretations of the translation, I think that this simple version does the job. So, how do Christians square adherence to their faith with the urge to possess a machine that has no other purpose than to contravene this commandment? I am, again, at a loss.

We could look at education. I am not familiar enough with the formal education system in US schools, but I can look at “social education”. I rarely watch TV anywhere, but I do notice a stark difference between the US and Europe. In the US, any hint of sex or nudity is expunged [even though it might provide some positive education and help with the astronomic teenage pregnancy rate, but let’s solve one problem at a time]. Violence is another matter; it is portrayed in every imaginable form to an extent that I am sure desensitization must occur. Maybe here is something that could be fixed.

My heart goes out to the families of those killed in Newtown. The heroism of the young teacher, Victoria Soto, who lost her life protecting her charges, brings tears to my eyes. But my heart sinks when I hear that Texas Governor Rick Perry indicated that he supported allowing teachers and administrators to carry concealed handguns. I think that I mentioned before that politicians are idiots. My case rests.

Anyway, the problem may go away tomorrow, if the Mayans got it right.

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