Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Guns Kill People......

Images and words describing the violence at Virginia Tech University are everywhere. I went to my campus yesterday, had lunch in a crowded cafeteria, walked halls filled with sweet living breathing people and spoke with colleagues. All this with the images of broken bloody bodies being dragged over low stone walls and green lawns still fresh in my mind. To fathom such cruel pandemonium as took place in Virginia is to step to the edge of human understanding. On the same day in Japan the mayor of Nagasaki was shot dead in the street and a U.S Secret Service agent shot two other agents inside the grounds of the White House in Washington D.C (while President Bush was ironically attending a memorial service for the Virginia Tech victims!!). Coming from rural Australia I grew up with guns and began using them myself already at the age of about 10 or 11. I actually wanted to be a gunsmith for several years when I was young as I appreciated the aesthetic appeal of finely crafted weapons (especially very old ones). But today I feel a general sense of revulsion in the whole weapons industry. In April 1996 I arrived in Tasmania the day after Martin Bryant had killed 35 people and injured 37 at the convict ruins of Port Arthur, a tourist attraction on the east coast of the island state. Over the coming month I and a friend spent a month in Hobart busking music every day in the streets. We met several 'street people' who had known Bryant. They all said he was an outsider even among the outsiders of the streets. During our three months of travels around Tasmania the pall of the tragedy was everywhere in the state which has seen so much violence in its history.
I find it strange that some advocates of the right to bear arms equate it with individual self expression. Even at its most abstract the manufacture, ownership and use of weapons falls far short of what I would call creative. The idea of self defence or protection is also given as a reason to bear arms, but this is an eye for an eye situation where what one is actually trying to resist is the other people who are also bearing arms (probably in fear of yourself). The concept that having a gun makes one free is insane. Free from what? Intimate social contacts and a relaxed co operative atmosphere where people are able to make choices and pursue their desires without the intimidation that comes from the threat of physical violence. Perhaps.

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