Richard Lutz learned to shoot a rifle when he was 11. That made him realise just how dangerous the weapons are.
When I was a little boy, not yet a teenager, I went to a New England summer camp. I had actually never seen a rifle except on TV or in the movies.
But the camp, which opened my city eyes to so much, taught safe gun use. I learned safety, safety, safety. And how to shoot the .22 rifles from prone, sitting and standing positions by a languid Arizonian called Guy. And you got badges for high scores.
After that, I never touched a weapon again. There was no need.
But the fact that I was taught rifle shooting reflects how the US views guns. It is ingrained as a constitutional right to bear arms – a notion that probably made a lot of sense 240 years ago when pioneers lived lonely lives in the woods and needed protection from everything from a bear to a British soldier trying to force their way into a cabin.
Times have changed. But a certain American perspective has not. It still thinks it is necessary to have personal armed defence against criminals. People in Europe (and that still includes for the next week Britain) think it’s dangerous and ludicrous.
Something must be done. But I have yet to see an American politician go the whole hog, stand up and say assault rifles, pistols and semi automatics must be banned. They would have too much to lose
But this is what I think. Everything with a bullet must be confiscated and destroyed. And the gunshops shut down. And anyone owning the weapons outwith a certain time frame should face a mandatory five year jail sentence with no parole.
That would be a start. But we know it won’t happen. Neither will we see an elected US representative call for that 100% ban – as in Britain where it is illegal to possess a pistol and where there are blessedly no mass killings and the crime rate is so much lower than the US.
But, as a compromise, how about this: before a person enters a gunshop, he must undergo a psychiatric test and receive a clean bill of health from a family doctor, a psychologist and a social worker. After that, every time a person walks into a gun shop to buy a Glock or an AK 47, he must wear a sign around his neck pronouncing they have just bought a killer weapon. That sign has to be worn for six weeks. Then they have to wear red clothes with stripes for another six weeks and hang jingly bells on their legs for six months. And they would have to carry a sound system on their shoulders blaring out constant Barry Manilow music.
They would also have to go to weekly counselling sessions with the threat of an immediate home raid and confiscation of their guns if they fail to attend.
If they don’t follow this law, their cars will be send to a wreckers’ yard and crushed and their cell phones whipped off them and given to the poor. Their children will be taken off them too and, as a last resort, they would be forced to live in Nebraska.
Well, maybe that will never happen. But it is a tad more pragmatic than what exists. And is the US slowly moving towards sanity? Obama’s unceasing rhetoric against the appalling roll call of massacres is important. But it still does not go far enough and reveals how the gun culture is wrapped in the American psyche. It’d be like banning football in Britain (not a bad idea, say some) or banning French in Paris.
Nothing will change in the US until some senior politician gets off that comfy legislative chair and actually says let’s start with that crucial total ban on everything. Immediately.
And make the penalties so severe that it would not be worth while to buy or possess weaponry. And then re-write the outmoded Second Amendment which allows this outdated murderous state of affairs. That’d be a start. A small one. But a start.