16 December 2012
I was at a conference today, and at the end of the day's session, at seven, there was a reception.
The conference, organized by the University of Geneva's Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, was about government debt and financial markets.
During the reception, I ran into somebody I know who knows that I'm from Connecticut, and she asked me what I thought of the shooting in Newtown. I had not heard anything about it, so, she told me what she knew -- quite a bit.
Then somebody next to us heard us and approached, curious, then somebody else. Eventually, I was surrounded by almost thirty people, eager to hear what I had to say, since I was from where the crime had occurred -- even though I knew only what I had just heard from my friend.
But what they wanted to hear about was something else. Apart from a professor from Skidmore College and one from Dartmouth College, none of them was from the United States, and they wanted to know why Americans want everybody to have guns. One savvy person (remarkable how much people outside the United States pay attention to what's happening in the United States, a country where most people care very little about the rest of the world) pointed out that the Michigan state legislature had just voted a law allowing children to bring loaded guns to school.
Yes, in an article by Joan Walsh published by Salon on line ( http://www.salon.com/2012/12/14/sorry_jay_carney/?source=newsletter ), I found this: "According to Mother Jones, in 1995 there were an estimated 200 million guns in private hands. Now there are about 300 million, a 50 percent jump.... The lame-duck right-wing GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature just passed an ALEC-backed bill allowing concealed loaded guns in schools, churches and day care centers, and abolishing the county panels that controlled concealed-pistol licensing."
So, the questions came fast. Why do Americans want everybody to have guns? Are people allowed to own cars without registering them and drive them without a licence? Why isn't there such a thing as a marksman's licence in the United States? Why do Americans allow their children to be gunned down so regularly -- why don't Americans care about their children? Isn't Connecticut a well-do-do place? So, even there, there is no security for children? Why is a person's freedom to kill greater than the safety of innocent children? Why are there strict laws against smoking pot, which hurts nobody (except possibly the smoker) but none against people arming themselves so that they can commit mass murder? And, again, and again, why do Americans want everybody to have guns?
Over on this side of the pond, people obviously don't understand.
All I could do was explain that any sort of gun control in the United States is impossible, even the basic requirement that gun owners earn a master marksman's certificate, because this is what the overwhelming majority want, backed by President Obama, and any effort to change that is shouted down as a threat to personal freedom. One can interpret that freedom as freedom to kill, but in any event, it trumps everything else.
They were incredulous, manifestly dissatisfied with my answer, and wandered away making remarks about a security obsessed society that allows guns into schools and children to be used for live targets...
No, they don't understand.
I confess, I don't either.
Robert James Parsons
rue de la Flèche 8
Tél.: +41 (0)22 736-59-55