A matter of honour

The amount of weapons that the Las Vegas monster Paddock (even to write his name is repulsive) stockpiled in his hotel room and at his home is so paradoxical as to be a matter of surprise even in the United States of America, which is now portrayed as a gunman’s paradise (though I’ve never met one personally).

America has suddenly, according to many analysts in the European media, lost its way as a democratic and generous country, and has become only violent, aggressive, largely ruled by the law that allows its citizens to hoard weapons as they please and consequently to perpetuate mass attacks. There is some truth to this: 66 percent out of the 119 mass shootings worldwide between 1983-2013 were in the U.S., sorry.

It’s a difficult and delicate topic: weapons don’t fire on their own, and it’s absurd to make these very extreme episode the symbol of a bad America.  Weapons don’t pile up by themselves in the hands of a mass of madmen who then use them to commit mass murder. There are bad people, mad, aggressive, ferocious, terrorist around…It’s a security matter, and we can wonder why isn’t security working, given the fact that weapons are freely available for sale?

Yes, the right to buy them is incredibly wide; and the informations about those who buy them require a wider effort. We foresee here today a Country’s failure to guarantee security to its citizens despite the noisy police car sirens, which always seem to arrive all at once in a cacophony of sirens..

Yet, my goodness, seeing that the assassin walked right through the hall of the hotel carrying 23 rifles, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a batch of potentially explosive chemicals, it’s disconcerting that nobody didn’t even notice: this underscores the fact that Americans don’t know how to properly manage security in a large hotel. Is it allowed to bring weapons in uncontrolled quantities in America?

American laws that allow the possession of guns are very confused and differ from state to state: how many weapons, what weapons, how many machine guns, can I buy a tank and an atomic bomb for personal defense? I don’t think so! Personal defense doesn’t require automatic weapons that shoot people from long distances; a pistol shoots at the most a few meters away, therefore it’s necessary to distinguish between weapons and also buyers: not all are like Clint Eastwood and possess an innate sense of equilibrium or spirit of justice.

In Israel, which is a country where soldiers take their guns home, it’s unthinkable that someone would shoot upon a crowd. And when you enter in a supermarket as in a hotel you put your weapon in the hands of the guard. Moreover the element of defense, and not of a senseless attack, has brought about a pervasive and shared culture of discipline. The weapon here is really a weapon of pure self defense, to use it aggressively is a crime, and this seems to be the first point: education.

Moreover, one who is not an off-duty soldier finds it very difficult to possess a private weapon in Israel: you must be over 21 years old, a resident in the country for at least three years, have passed a personal background check and strict physical and mental exams, as well as give a sufficient reason for your request. Weapons must then be ordered through a licensed store where one receives a supply of 50 bullets that are refilled only when the others are depleted.

Changing gun laws in America will be very difficult, but it’s not because America is evil, like so many comments again and again suggest: many countries are more violent than the USA. But this country must now take into its hands an enormous task: education, security, limits.. a labyrinth. However, even if Trump has still not gone out on a limb on this issue, it looks like this time he will have to admit the obvious, and start working on it. It’s a matter of honour for America, history calls for this historical task.

Translation by Amy Rosenthal

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (October 04, 2017)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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