The newest issue of the June 10th “The Week” magazine had some really interesting things to say about the spate of violence in America.
On page 4, Charlie Sykes of “The Bulwark” said: “Face it: Our democratic system is broken. Faced with endless mass shootings and daily gun carnage, a nation that once put men on the moon is mired in paralysis and ‘hoplessness.’ An America that won’t act to stop the periodic slaughter of schoolchildren is ‘in crisis, perhaps in terminal decline.’”
As a Baby Boomer who grew up during the turbulence of the 60s, I agree and wonder. I thought America was on the edge of the abyss in the sixties, but shootings in churches, schools, malls, supermarkets, at outdoor concerts and simply in the streets of American cities like Philadelphia and Chicago is extreme, even for me. I am similarly appalled that the young girls of today are facing the same struggle for the right to determine what happens to their own bodies that my generation faced in my youth, which led to the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973.
First, I am reprinting the words of newspapers in Sydney (Australia), Paris (“Le Monde”) and Japan, to show you what the rest of the world thinks about the United States of America. The headline was “America Allows the Massacre of Children.”
“The indiscriminate slaughter of young children should bring a country together in mourning,” said “The Times” (U.K.) in an editorial. That’s why mass shootings in Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and elsewhere inspired prompt reform of those countries’ gun laws, with Canada banning ownership of handguns in the past few days. Take the 1987 Hungerford massacre in Britain, when an armed man cut down 16 people before killing himself. After that senseless horror, the U.K. banned nearly all semiautomatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns, as well as exploding ammunition. Plenty of Brits still own guns, half a million in England and Wales alone. Yet because they require licensing and background checks, which include examining applicants’ social media, only 4% of British homicides involve guns, and the overall homicide rate is 1/5 that of America’s. The U.S., though, claims there is nothing it can do—even as mass shootings proliferate, even as, last week, a young man shot to death 19 children and 2 teachers in an Uvalde, Texas, elementary school; even as last month a white supremacist killed 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store. In the U.S., such shootings don’t bring national soul-searching, but bickering and hand-wringing.
It’s the guns: More guns mean more homicides, said Meret Baumann in Switzerland. Most rich countries, including Japan, Australia and almost all of Europe—have gun control and boast homicide rates of less than 1.5 per 100,000 some even less than 1. America’s rate is approaching 8, worse than Niger, Pakistan, and Myanmar. The U.S., in fact, has a frightening 120 firearms for every 100 people “more than any other country” and the Texas gunman was able to legally buy an AR-style rifle and almost 400 rounds of ammunition with no training the very day after his 18th birthday. That single fact “should set off alarm bells, but such behavior is not questioned in the U.S.”
Why can’t America be more like Australia? asked the “Sydney Morning Herald” in an editorial. We, too, are a rugged settler nation, and many Aussies in the Outback were devoted to their weapons. But after a gunman killed 35 people in Port Arthur in 1996, they “cracked down on gun ownership,” outlawing some weapons and mandating licensing and background checks. Aussies eagerly turned in thousands of guns in our buyback program, and our risk of dying by gunfire quickly fell by more than half.
Yet the U.S. remains “trapped in its madness,” said “Le Monde” (France) in an editorial. “America is killing itself” and he Republican Party is “ideologically complicit.” Because the GOP is in thrall to the gun lobby, and because the antiquated U.S. system of representation gives disproportionate weight to Senators from less-populated, Republican-led states, the American people can’t vote their way out of their nightmare.
After the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, most Americans wanted at least background checks for gun buyers. But “elected officials representing 118 million of their fellow citizens were able to defeat those chosen by 194 million.” U.S. schools will surely continue to be “transformed into bloody shooting ranges, sticky with blood.”
That is the true “American exceptionalism.”