The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has most Australians asking ‘When will the United States get serious about gun control?’ Sadly, the answer is not any time soon.
Now is obviously the moment when Barack Obama should emulate John Howard’s stand after the Port Arthur killings but the difference between 1996 and now is insuperable. This is not a question of rational policy-making but a question of faith. For the true believers, the magical power and saving grace of guns is a religious tenet beyond rational argument.
The National Rifle Association’s mantra ‘Guns don’t kill people – People kill people’ has practically become a punchline but for many Americans it’s also a core conviction. Others espouse gun ownership as a bulwark against tyranny. Never mind that the argument was invented in the 18th century when kings relied on mercenaries that a popular rebellion could actually defeat.
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There is a view among those who argue in favour of the status quo that governments should never adopt policy positions based on emotion. I would argue that in a case such as the school shootings in Connecticut that now it is absolutely the right time to respond - when people are sickened, sobbing, furious, completely emotional.
Our collective sense of repulsion dissipates with time as we get on with life and somehow forget the unforgettable. You want someone to harness that sense of disgust and turn it into action. Frankly, if anyone is not emotional about this issue, there is something seriously wrong with them.
President Obama was fuelled by a sense of disgust at his press conference on Saturday. He also promised to turn it into action. More power to his arm.
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