Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Las Vegas - Can we stop asking why and focus on the how?

Feather dusters don't kill people. Nor do garden hoses. As a rule. That's not what they are for, anyway, and therefore they're quite clunky and inefficient as means of mass slaughter. Although, sure, a sufficiently driven and nasty human of average intelligence can use just about any tool for the purpose of killing. So yes, in that narrow sense alone, it's people who kill people.
But guns, and particulary semi-automatic weapons, are built with the sole purpose of maiming and killing. This is what they do, efficiently so. So when nearly 60 people are killed and 500 gravely injured by a single pensioner taking aim at them from a hotel window it seems reasonable to conclude that it's in fact the guns who should be the protagonists here, the salient detail, not whatever obsession, ideological delirium or personality disorder affected the human who pulled the trigger. A retired accountant with no army background. A nobody. Another angry old man -  among many other angry men, young men, middle aged ones, old ones, men of every hue and colour and background - with an inflated sense of grievance, or destinity, or of his own importance. Who gives a shit why? How is finding out why going to stop this happenig again? 
In Britain, Italy and in pretty much every other modern democracy we are replete with catankeous old men and angry young men, narcisists and wife beaters. There's no scarcity of nasty, violent, self-obsessed men (ooops, I mean people, of course!). Yet an old man would have a tough time murdering and maiming on that scale, in a matter of minutes, no matter how crazy or ideologically driven. 
So, again, it turns out that it's the availability and prevalence of guns - not immigrants, not Muslims, not even terrorists (who can thankfully be quite clumsy with explosives) that causes people to be killed in their hundreds with this regularity and inevitability. Give bad intentions, 'evil' , temporary insanity, male chauvinist pigs, you name it, a baseball bat and someone will get hurt but for a good old fashioned massacre you..... kinda need automatic weapons.
Today is not the time to have this conversation. The time was 15, 30 years ago before the US become so flooded with the bloody things that only mass confiscation, not restrictions on sales, is likely to make a substantial difference now. 
But still, going forward, you'd think it might be desirable to start mitigating against future senseless carnage as soon and as much as bloody possible, don't you? 
Yet the country that forces the likes of me to declare we are not Nazi war criminals on entry and frowns on 120ml bottles of shampoo can't have that conversation. Its politicians' hands are tied, mainly with dollars, and its media is pitifully muted on the subject, so that its citizens come to believe they do live in the best/most rational of all possible worlds, like the starving North Koreans who think it's the rest of us who are having a tough time. (This reminds me of those ridiculous US commentators spewing nonsense against 'Socialised Medicine'. Ask any European if they mind NOT having to choose between between eating and paying the morgage or getting cancer treatment. Go on, see what they say.). 
In the cacophony of bullshit platitudes about prayers and unity and resilience and the courage of first responders the NRA ayatollahs still won't release their grip on the levers of US democracy. They didn't after first graders were felled at Sandy Hook, they won't do it now. They can afford to fuel several 9/11s every year with no consequence, no censure of any kind, barely a whisper of a timid debate. Policy makers can't even collect the right statistics on gun crime.
The ultimate form of terrorism, it seems to me, is when a mature democracy reduces its own citizens to the status of living target practice for the convenience of its gun industry. It's an awfully big gamble, even by Vegas standards.

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