Blame it on the British

©Ric Getter, August 1999

There has been more finger-pointing than a group of kids playing cops and robbers with imaginary pistols. Perhaps Columbine represented a breaking-point for the American people and the loss of those precious lives was not completely in vain. Following the disaster, politicians, social commentators and the like have been flailing away in the dark, looking for the root causes for this and the many similar tragedies of recent years.

It’s ludicrous, ethnocentric and narrow-minded in the extreme to pursue the entertainment industry as the cause of these problems. Schoolyard mayhem is not in the headlines of other countries (where, not coincidentally, firearm ownership is severely restricted, if not banned entirely). And, our movies, TV shows and even video games predominate throughout the world.

But Hollywood and the gaming industry are easy targets. Unlike many other industries (small arms manufacturing comes to mind here), their business depends on favorable public opinion. And, it’s human nature to react and possibly over-react to a highly-visible incident.

This also may have been the case in America a little over two-hundred years ago when the country was still a colony of the British Empire. Our potential for unrest was obvious. It was to the great benefit of the Brits to keep firearms out of our hands. As history bears out, their impression was correct, but their efforts were largely unsuccessful.

However, the reaction after our successful revolution was strong, indeed. To help prevent something like this from threatening our national security and personal freedom again, a citizen’s right to bear arms was placed in the Constitution along with the innate rights more commonly associated with political, social and individual freedom. The families’ cap-and-ball muskets could hang legally over the mantle forevermore.

Now, as the twentieth century draws to a close, the longest-standing democracy in history remains ensconced in Washington and should the British or any other empire attempt to colonize us, they would face the opposition of the world’s most formidable army. But, with the pressures of city life, the rapid evolution away from the stable, nuclear family, a rapidly shrinking middle-class and a pitifully under-funded mental health system, life in America is not quite as peaceful as it once was.

Under the circumstances, it is quite normal to expect some individuals to go a little nuts now and then.

When this happens in a country there are more privately-owned firearms than anywhere else in the developed world, where it is easier to get guns, and the citizenry has access to an abundance of weaponry far more powerful than even the police they have appointed to protect them, stories like Columbine will continue. And, as long as heavily-funded organizations like the NRA are essentially in control of the nation’s laws and lawmakers, there is virtually nothing that can be done.

Perhaps if the voting citizenry learns what percentage of our legislators’ campaign funding comes from firearms-related sources, this will begin to change. And perhaps, if public opinion begins to realize that the priorities of late twentieth-century America have evolved since the days of the Thirteen Colonies, some form of firearm sanity will prevail. Until then, tragedies like Columbine (and probably worse) will remain a part of "normal" life in America.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But the guns make it a whole lot easier.