Those of us who live in America are constantly being reminded that it is the land of the free. We hear it all the time as the National Anthem blares from our TV sets before some sports event. In New Hampshire, the state motto is “live free or die.” Ironically, it’s on their motor vehicle license plates, which they must buy in order to drive on public roads.
Americans – even in New Hampshire – meekly accept the government dictate that they drive on the right hand side of the road, stop at red lights and go on green, etc. Ignore the rules of the road and you’re likely to be fined (if you don’t get killed first). Keep ignoring them and you lose your license. Keep driving without a license and you go to jail. American drivers risk jail even by ignoring parking tickets.
I am due to renew my Florida driver’s license, and I have been notified that I must bring my citizenship papers, Social Security card and at least two documents showing my home address. If I were a woman, I would also have to produce my marriage license to substantiate my new name.
Some of us live in subdivisions with “covenants,” rules dictating how tall our lawn grass can be and what color we can paint our house, when we can put out the garbage and how long we can leave it out, what type of vehicle we can park on our lot, and so on.
I went down to the county court house the other day to pay my property taxes, and the guard at the door made me detach my one-inch-long Swiss army knife from my key chain and take it back to my car. Such “deadly weapons” are not allowed in government buildings hereabouts.
At the airports we must remove our shoes and submit to scans of the most private parts of our anatomy.
To someone who grew up in rural Jamaica back in the days when many roads had room for only one vehicle at a time, Americans seem to be tightly regulated indeed.
Except for guns.
Americans are free to own any type of gun they choose. It’s in the Constitution.
At least, that’s the way the National Rifle Association and their friends look at it. The actual amendment is all about “a well regulated militia,” which seems to me to imply regulations on gun ownership and use. But no matter. These gun owners demand they be left alone. Even if two dozen little kids are mowed down at a Connecticut school. Even if – as President Obama noted – 900 Americans are fatally shot in the month since the Newtown massacre.
The “sweeping” reforms the president is trying to get enacted won’t stop the shootings. Take away their assault rifles and Americans will find some other weapon with which to kill each other. They’re a dangerous breed. The entire nation – the men, anyway- seem to go around saying, “Make my day,” or “Do you feel lucky,” or some other iconic phrase like that.
They’re like little boys in cowboy suits shouting, “Bang, you’re dead!”
In such a society, the “sweeping” measures proposed by the president seem pitifully inadequate, but they would be a start – a gesture in the right direction. And the president is being quite brave to stand up to the NRA.
Predictably, the gun lobby is enraged. They demand the constitutional right to sell any and all kinds of guns, regardless of the mayhem such “freedom” might cause.
The way I see it, they’re delusional. To me, my freedom ends where my neighbor’s freedom begins. I am not free to massacre first-graders, or to own a weapon that I might use to massacre dozens of them in the blink of an eye.
Certainly not without a background check. The parents in my neighborhood should be free from worrying over the threat of some homicidal maniac shooting their children.
I don’t think anyone is suggesting that felons and lunatics should be free to carry guns. Or wife beaters for that matter.
And, no, the black helicopters are not coming to subdue us, so we do not need military-grade weapons around the house to resist them. That fantasy was manufactured by right-wing provocateurs to build audiences and sell tapes and books.
I can’t think of a civilized country that doesn’t regulate the ownership and use of firearms. Admittedly, such regulations can go too far. I can remember a time in Jamaica when one of my friends was imprisoned when the authorities found a single bullet in his home. No gun, just a bullet.
I believe Jamaica has moderated its restrictions since then.
But it’s absurd to suggest there’s anything dictatorial in President Obama’s effort to scale back gun violence. To me he is being eminently reasonable – timid even. There’s more that needs t o be done.
But the president’s plan is a good start.
Let’s all pray he can get Congress to join him. Indeed, let’s all help him get it done by giving our representatives a call.