I've tried to convince my American friends how out of step they are on firearms. Being number one in gun ownership and number one in murder does not seem to impress them. Perhaps it stimulates their pride in being different. Everyone else must be off kilter, insofar as individual freedom is the prime American value. They learned it in school, reinforced by John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, and lots of others. Europe meant repression in 1776, and still at the end of 2012.
I'll make one last try, with a suggestion I have not yet seen in my browsing of the Internet. Lots of people would deal with the insane, marginal and otherwise, either by forced drugs or segregation, all the while not thinking about that other American cherished value of privacy. Many of the same people, and lots of others would increase the availability of arms. Guards at every school, coffee shop and shopping mall, with a shoot to kill training, and no more flexible than all those people working for airport security.
No one has yet proposed my idea of a way to accommodate all those Americans who love their guns, and the unknown number--not yet registered in the Association of Americans Without Rifles (AAWR)--who don't want any guns or the people who admire them nearby.
I suggest turning part of the US into a gun zone, and make the rest of it like Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and some other civilized places that make do with little or no private gun ownership and murder rates half to less than a quarter of that in the US.
Where to put the guns and gun enthusiasts? I initially pondered the huge empty spaces provided from the Dakotas west through Idaho, and down through Wyoming and the central and western parts of Nebraska. Lots of space, plenty of wild west shoot'em up traditions, but some drawbacks on weather. Texas appears a better alternative. Varied weather, along with space, experience with killing and being killed, a well used execution chamber and staff to put in the needle and press the button for those who exaggerate their use of gun rights.
There should be enough enthusiasm for creating a gun ghetto in order to pass a constitutional amendment clarifying the rights that some see in #2, but limiting them to Texas, and outlawing private ownership in the other 49 on a date sufficiently distant to give enthusiasts an opportunity to sell their bars, gun and motorcycle shops and other rooted fixtures, and move themselves to the Texas ghetto. The few Texans who might not want weapons would be free--indeed encouraged--to leave for safer opportunities.
To make it work best, the Israeli company that mass produces 24 foot high concrete components of the wall used to enclose Palestinians can set up a training facility for Texans and folks in the immediate neighboring states to make enough of those components quickly enough to surround the ghetto, and thereby prevent any stray shots from hurting innocent outsiders.
New and old Texans could leave their ghetto to visit other places, but they'd have to check their weapons at the gates. Visitors could--perhaps be required to--rent guns for protecting themselves and family members when they enter the gun state for business, pleasure, or family reunions.
My remaining worry concerns the size of Texas and its capacity to absorb all the gun lovers. On this, I'll invite comments, and remind you all that I'm flexible. If there are way too many gun lovers for Texas, perhaps every state but Rhode Island would be appropriate. Or maybe not. Providence has been home to some nasties who wouldn't be inclined to move anywhere for the sake of decency. New Jersey would fail on similar criteria. Perhaps Delaware. You could put those concrete barriers around that little state, which may be large enough for the Americans who do not like guns, apply it for membership in the United Nations and the European Union, and be damned with the rest.
I expect that some people reading this will be revolted at what they perceive--incorrectly--as an effort to ridicule a nation in deep morning about a cruel tragedy. Most clearly they are wrong in seeing their country in deep mourning. There are signs of sadness, but also signs that owning weapons is more important to a great many Americans than the lives of young children. I have no doubt that Barack Obama's tears and intentions are serious, but the most powerful man on earth has only so much time he can devote to this issue, and he knows his chances are limited. Overall, America's mourning is being done with no more than half a spirit, with the other half--at the least--reserved for demanding the right to own weapons and suggestig how to protect the innocent without depriving gun lovers. There's already been one multiple murder and suicide that I'm aware of since Newtown, and the Presidential commission meant to propose solutions hasn't yet begun to work.
This is a season of hope. To paraphrase Pope John Paul II, I wish our Christian little brothers all the appropriate blessings, with my additional plea that they finally learn how to live in peace, and then succeed in teaching the rest of us.
Posted by Ira Sharkansky at December 24, 2012 01:51 AM
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem