Straight Talk - Warm words no longer enough in US gun control debate
Barack Obama impressed me on Friday night, though I wish he hadn’t had to.
His obvious distress at the senseless loss of so many lives in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut was a refreshingly human response from a politician in the face of such a horrific event.
Given the way in which politics and politicians are seen in such a cynical light most of the time, it would be understandable for people to view his statement in the immediate aftermath of the killings as some sort of politically calculated performance.
But, even if one tries to think of Newtown as King’s Lynn and that school as one of our schools, it is impossible to imagine the abject terror that must have gone through the minds of those people, children and adults alike, as they were gunned down. In that context, Mr Obama’s response was the only reasonable response.
And yet there is an overwhelming sense that we’ve been here before, that those so mercilessly murdered for whatever apparent reason may emerge over time have met their deaths because there has not been the collective will to address the issue of gun restrictions in America.
Of course, it’s been an emotive subject over here in the past too, particularly in the wake of the Dunblane tragedy in 1996 and, even closer to home, the debate which erupted in the wake of the Tony Martin case.
And even when one recognises there are those who object to the laws laid down in the wake of the Dunblane killings in particular, the biggest thing in their favour is that we, as a country, have not had to endure such a day as that since.
We hear from across the Atlantic about the powerful gun lobby and the constitutional right of citizens to bear arms.
But just because that right was laid down nearly 250 years ago does not mean it should be accepted unchallenged in 2012. If that logic is right, then what else might we be doing from the 18th century in 2012? I don’t really want to think about that.
If the loss of the lives of 20 six and seven-year-old children in such a heinous, violent manner is not enough for American society to engage in a serious examination of the extent to which that historic right is sustainable, indeed desirable, in the early years of the 21st century, then nothing ever will be.
If, God forbid, something like that happened in a British school and our lawmakers did not take swift steps to try to stop something similar happening in the future, I would have to question whether or not I was truly living in a civilised country.
As I was writing this column on Sunday night, that son of Dunblane who has done so much to put his home town on the map for the right reasons, Andy Murray, was receiving his third place trophy in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
It may take a long time, if ever, for the community of Newtown to come to terms with what happened on Friday and for someone to put their town on the map in a positive way.
For now, it’s up to the politicians to turn the president’s grief into something more meaningful. Too many people have died in vain. The time for action is now.
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Weather for King's Lynn
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: East
Temperature: 5 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North