A reader emailed me from Australia the other day. Here is much of what she had to say:
“I noted the comment from your British reader. I’m a New Zealander living in Australia, we have strict gun laws down here too. We’re getting news and commentary here on the gun control debate that has started again in the US, and a staggering statistic mentioned this morning is that: in the US there are 9 guns for every 10 people – interesting too that gun related deaths are 5x higher (per capita) in the US than in Australia – coincidence? I don’t think so.
Many of the social conditions here are the same – violent movies and video games freely available for example – and every country has it’s share of ‘misfits’ and people with mental illness. The big difference is that we don’t have guns all over the place – and especially not military style weapons. Gun ownership here is very rare and semi and automatic weapons are banned. Anyone wishing to buy a gun must have a Permit to do so. These are issued by the Police who do background checks which can include checks as to mental health.
All health professionals are required to advise police of any concerns they have regarding patients they believe may be at risk of harming themselves or others if they are aware they have access to firearms. Of course there are people who express concern about these controls from a civil liberties viewpoint, but the rights of individuals have to be balanced against the rights of the community to be protected from gun crime.
Getting this balance right isn’t always easy and it’s impossible to protect every person in every circumstance at all times from being harmed by others. But I do hope that sanity will prevail and that these terribly destructive weapons will be taken out of the community in the US sooner rather than later.
I’ll add a little postscript to it here that I didn’t mention in the comment though. To me it goes to the heart of the ‘gun culture’ that is perceived by us on the outside as being totally out of control in the US.
The tragedy that occurred last week has really put a damper on my zest for Christmas decorating. So much so, that last weekend I just couldn’t look at it anymore. I took it all down and put it away. I’m sure you will think this is going overboard. And if I’d had children around, I wouldn’t have done it. But once all the glittery decor was gone, the bright Christmas pretties and baubles, I somehow felt better. For me personally, it depressed me rather than delighted me.
So that’s how we’re looked at, my American friends: “To me it goes to the heart of the ‘gun culture’ that is perceived by us on the outside as being totally out of control in the US.”
This saddens me. Today I do not feel proud to be an American.