30 December 2012

LIFE: 2012 Out With a Bang

SARONNO, Italy –It wasn’t my intent to revisit the issue of gun control as we head into 2013, but the recent massacre in Newtown, Connecticut is far too tragic to pass without comment. As I wrote back in July in a post on gun control in Italy,
http://thisitalianlife.blogspot.it/2012/07/life-gun-control-italian-style.html  my heart weeps for the victims, their families and the shooter as well, for he’s a victim too, a victim of his own sick mind aided and abetted by gun laws unlike any found in other civilized societies. 

Have You Ever Seen Anything So Sad?

You would think that the shooting of 6 and 7 year olds would make our lawmakers stop and seriously consider the consequences of their actions as they stubbornly defend American gun laws. But it is quite the contrary. After the Newtown incident State Senator Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg) introduced a bill that would allow students as young as first grade to carry handguns at school. 

I don’t get it. Anyone who can sit and watch the aftermath of the senseless killing of 6 and 7 year olds and not realize that more stringent gun laws are desperately needed in America must have a heart of stone and a brain to match.

And it’s not just the kids and teachers in Newtown. Let us not forget the two firemen who were gunned down by the guy who set fire to his house in order to lure the first responders into his trap and then hid behind a bush with a semi-automatic rifle and shot them when they arrived to do their very dangerous job on his behalf. Or any of the dozens of other shooting tragedies that take place on the streets of America every single day.

How can we live with such anxiety? Such uncertainty? Why must we send our children off to school with our hearts in our mouths, or go to a movie with a sense of dread? Why is this allowed?  Whose freedom is really being compromised, and why? Will public safety and security become so rare that soon the only place you will see it is in a Disney movie? You have to wonder just what it is going to take for people to write to their representatives and say enough is enough. Are they waiting until it happens to someone in their own family?   

While it may be a constitutional right of Americans to bear arms, where are our rights to move freely within a society without fear of another mentally deranged person popping up from behind a tree as happened in the killing of two first responders to a massive fire, or through the door of a movie theater, or someone forcing their way into another elementary school wielding an automatic weapon and letting loose?

Italy is a country that knows war first hand, its scars are still visible, the orphans the last war left behind are still alive. I used to tell people that in Italy you can’t even own bullets let alone a gun, but that isn’t exactly true. In this duly elected democratic country of Italy guns and bullets are not totally outlawed, but they are strictly controlled. The Italian Constitution does not recognize a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.

Instead there are strict rules about who can own a gun and for what purpose. Private ownership of military style weapons (e.g. semi-automatic guns) is strictly forbidden and military ammunition is also forbidden. Guns are also limited to a certain capacity (e.g. maximum 15 rounds in handguns), and there are also restrictions on the total amount of ammunition which can be owned and how and where guns must be stored (e.g. in a locked cabinet).

To obtain a gun license applicants must be 18 or older, prove they can handle and use a firearm safely (new gun owners are required to attend a  firearms course at a registered shooting range and earn a certificate of completion), certify that they have a clean criminal record (which is verified by the Police) and must not be mentally ill or be a known abuser of, or addicted to, alcohol or illegal drugs.

I know I’ve said this before, but it is still true.  I realize I’m just another blogger in an ocean of bloggers who is truly horrified by these tragedies. And it’s not just the recent incidents that horrify me, it’s all the drive-bys and gang war shoot outs and the mentally maladjusted who think they can lean out of their second story windows with a loaded rifle and use the neighborhood kids for target practice – as actually happened on a street I lived on once. I’m just a person trying to understand why such horrible things are still allowed to happen to innocent people. The reasonable control of firearms is not a loss of personal freedom as touted by the National Rifle Association, but the contrary.

As we mourn the victims of America’s most recent tragedy, let us remember past victims as well.

1. August 1, 1966 Austin, Texas, University of Texas massacre 16 killed

2. May 4, 1970 Kent State University, Kent State massacre  4 killed

3. Jan. 1/7 1973, Essex, Mark James Robert, age 23 New Orleans, LA 9 killed

4. March 30 1975, Ruppert James Urban, age 40  Hamilton, OH, 11  killed

5. Sep. 25 1982 Banks, George Emil, age 40 Wilkes-Barre, PA 13 killed

6. July 18, 1984 San Diego, California, San Ysidro McDonald’s Massacre 21 killed

7. Dec. 22-28 1987,  Simmons, Ronald Gene, age 47 Russellville, AR 16 killed

8. June 17/18 1990,  Pough James, Edward, age 42 Jacksonville, FL 11 killed

9. October 16, 1991 Killeen, Texas, Luby’s massacre  22 killed

10. January 8, 1993 Palatine, Illinois, Brown’s Chicken massacre 7 killed

11. April 20, 1999 Littleton, Colorado, Columbine High School massacre 15 killed

12. March 21 2005, Weise, Jeffrey James, age 16 Red Lake, MN  9 killed

13. March 25, 2006 Seattle, Washington, Capitol Hill massacre  6 killed

14. April 16, 2007 Blacksburg, Virginia, Virginia Tech Massacre  32 killed

15. April 3 2009, Wong, Jiverly Antares, age 41 Binghamton, NY, 13 killed

16. March 10 2009, McLendon Michael Kenneth, age 28 Kinston, Samson & Geneva, AL, 10 killed

17. November 5, 2009 Ft. Hood, Texas, Fort Hood Massacre 13 killed

18. January 8, 2011 Tucson, Arizona, Tucson supermarket massacre 6 killed

19. May 30, 2012, Seattle, WA, Café Racer Massacre, 6 killed

20. July 20, 2012 Aurora, Colorado, Colorado Movie Theater Massacre 12 killed

21. August 5, 2012 Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Sikh Temple of Wisconsin,  7 killed

21, December 12, 1212 Newtown, Connecticut, 26 killed, 20 children, 6 adults  

You can agree with me or not, but think at least just about this: the number of people who died from mass shootings in Italy during the past 50 years is zero. Zero. 

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