Back in the days when the United States was 13 colonies of religious fanatics huddled on the East Coast of America facing a dangerous wilderness and hostile natives wanting their land back -- and rightly so -- it was understandable why the pioneers needed guns.
Guns fed them. Guns protected them.
A hundred or so years later those same pioneers fought a revolutionary war against the greatest empire on earth – and defying all odds – were victorious. Once again, the key was guns. Then it came time to create a country with a sacred document to guide it into an uncertain future. Is it any wonder that the Second Amendment to the American Constitution was the right to bear arms?
But this is where things started to go off the rails.
The Second Amendment was intended to provide the fledgling country with a citizens’ militia because the New Republic still faced many enemies, not the least of which were the imperialist British still smarting from their unexpected defeat, Spain, which possessed a great empire of its own, Mexico, part of the Spanish Empire to the south and the misnamed North American Indian, who still controlled the western half of the continent and had great leaders of its own like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.
But the Americans persevered and eventually defeated all of their enemies and became the Greatest Empire in the history of the world, bestriding the earth like a giant colossus, albeit a colossus with a fatal flaw – a love of guns. Any kind of gun from an AR-15, the semi-automatic weapon that killed 20 innocent school children in Newtown, Connecticut last week, to a Glock hand gun concealed in a pocket to the hundreds of drones killing children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (When a gun doesn’t work, you get a better weapon – and praise the Lord – the killing can continue.)
We’re talking about a sick country here. Sick, sick, sick! The gun culture is ingrained into the very fiber of American DNA. And ironically the only person that may be able to reverse this atavistic disease is one who has played a major role in continuing it – President Barack Obama.
Yes, I’m talking about that president, the one who was elected more than four years ago saying he would fight for tougher gun laws and did nothing. The one who gave the order for the extra-judicial murder of Osama bin Laden (in his bed surrounded by his wives and children) instead of bringing him to American justice and legally executing him like a truly civilized country would do. And, oh yes, the president who expanded the Drone War in the tribal lands of Pakistan and Afghanistan, killing hundreds of innocent civilians including dozens of women and children. No public tears shed for them. Then again, sitting in their stone houses and hovels in the Steppes of Asia, they represent great threats to American “security.” Yeah, right.
I know this is harsh, but I defy anyone to tell me it isn’t the truth.
Yet, despite the foregoing, I’m actually daring to believe that maybe this time it’s different. Obama’s tears looked genuine on TV. This time he’s pledged to act on gun control and put Vice President Biden in charge of a special task force to come up with concrete proposals for new gun laws within weeks. Referring to the Newtown massacre where teachers tried to shield students with their bodies, he said it’s time for Americans to show “one tiny iota of courage those teachers in Newtown summoned on Friday."
Pray to God, I hope Americans start doing that. This, after all, is the country where sales of children’s body armor and bullet-proof backpacks soared after the Newtown tragedy and where some politicians have seriously suggested arming all teachers to keep students from being killed.
But now there are signs that real change may be in the air. It took three days for the National Rifle Association to respond to the killing fields of Newtown and the NRA responded in a gracious manner with no mention at all of Americans inalienable right to gun each other down. Even some senators and congressmen, who have strongly supported the gun lobby in the past, are showing signs of a change of heart. Given this, Obama has a golden opportunity to forge a legacy of being the president that restored peace to the public square, made school children safe in their seats and created a kinder, less violent America.
Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and Cranbrook City Councillor. His opinions are his own.