Tuesday, October 03, 2006
In the movie Men in Black, a flying saucer destroys the truck of some rural hick. Edgar, the hick, goes out with his gun to investigate the crater. The alien 'Bug' tells him to place his 'projectile weapon' on the ground; Edgar replies, 'You can have my gun, when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.'. The Bug, of course, takes both Edgar and the gun. I saw Charlton Heston do that 'cold dead fingers' line at, I presume, a meeting of the National Rifle Association. It is plainly the rallying cry of the gun lobbyists who will, I am sure, be unmoved by the three school shootings in the US this week, culminating in yesterday's horror in Lancaster County. Like most Europeans, I have tended to regard American gun fascination with disgust. I have, however, gone to some lengths to try to understand. The constitutional justification is, it need hardly be said, absurd as it so obviously applied to a different world. But some time ago an argument put by, I think, Mark Steyn, did give me pause. He pointed out that there were large areas of America that were burglar free simply because most householders possessed guns and could legally use them if anybody attempted to break into their property. Here, of course, burglaries happen all the time and our wondrously rude and inept police force can't be bothered to do anything about them. And, if we should happen to kill or even upset a burglar, we are likely to find ourselves in court. But the truth is, whatever law and order benefits flow from US gun ownership are vastly outweighed by the routine horrors perpetrated in a land flooded with firearms, not to mention the thousands of accidental shootings that happen annually. I know in detail the cultural and historical arguments, but I could not bring myself to advance them with the blood of children on my hands. So bring on the Bug to prise the weapons from as many cold dead fingers as it takes.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 8:29 am