This is the third time I have tried to write something about the school shooting in Newtown, CT. It is hard to find the proper words to express the horror, dismay and bewilderment with this event. Everything one tries to say seems inadequate, trite and so familiar for it has been said too many times before. I am no longer surprised at these events. They are all too frequent and familiar. In the United States multiple public shootings are at about the rate of one a month. Some are major news events others just local and quickly fade from view.
While multiple public shootings are not unique to the United States, we in Canada have had some rather dreadful ones. My previous posting was a remembrance to the Montreal Massacre.of university female students. Certainly, the Brevik shooting in Norway was almost unique for that so very peaceful country. And a similar shooting of young children to the one in Newtown happened in Scotland. I mention these three shooting because each had a response for which we can have some admiration as a positive outcome. In Canada, the Montreal shootings lead to the Long Gun Registry, in honour of the young women murdered. (Sadly, our Conservative Government has shut this down and may see ways to weaken further some of our gun laws.) In Norway, we saw a Nation mourn but not give in to fear and hate but stood its ground in the high principles of the rule of law and the judicial process. They were not going to let the murders change their basic national values. And the murders in Scotland resulted in tougher gun laws in Britain. One can only hope that the multiple shooting in Newtown will result in some recognizable socially admirable change. It would be nice to think so. President Obama hinted that change in gun laws may happen, this time, where it has not happened after the countless previous times. Nothing less than real change could honour the lives of the murdered children of Newtown.
I lived in Connecticut for a number of years. I know the region where Newtown is located. I had an aunt and uncle who lived in an adjacent town. It is a lovely wooded picturesque part of the state with winding roads and historic homes on spacious lots. It is a quiet and restful part of the state. My relatives home was on Peaceable Street, That seems to sum it all up. For years my Uncle enjoyed this country living, taking the train each morning from the Branchville Station to New York City where he had an architecture firm. In may ways Newtown and Georgetown and the other historic small communities represent the best of America. I love New England small towns. I would have stayed and made a life in New England, if I was not so determined to see that my son was raised a Canadian, with Canadian values..
Newtown has a couple of interesting claims to fame. It is the birthplace of the wonderful board game of Scrabble. It's creator, James Brunot, lived there. How many families have spent countless hours together playing this stimulating game. I know our family did. Ironically, it is also has the headquarters of the retail trade association for the firearms industry, The National Shooting Sports Foundation. This is a very powerful pro gun lobbly, representing the gun manufactures in Connecticut.
Connecticut has a long history of manufacturing guns Most of the major companies are located in the State: Colt, Winchester, Marlin, Remington, Smith and Wesson, Sturn, Ruger, O.F. Mossberg & Sons.,Sharps Rifle, Connecticut Shotgun; there many be others.
In looking these up I also learned that Eli Whitney contributed to the gun industry by developing interchangeable standard parts so they could be mass produced. And I had always thought he was famous for developing the Cotton Gin. He had been a member of the historic church I served in New Haven, Ct. His home was next door until the church relocated to Whitney Avenue. (Don't you just love historical trivia.)
Perhaps it is because of the long history of gun manufacturing and its acceptance as part of the community, it has maintained a low profile and the State has some of the strongest gun laws in the US.
I had a parishioner, who was an industrial photographer working for Winchester. Photography was also a hobby with him and I often saw some of his photos. Now I wish I had asked to see some of his work photos., say, a wonderful picture of an M 16 weapon made by Winchester. If I had been a gun enthusiast I might have been more interested in his work photos.
I have rambled on. I think this may be my way of avoiding the pain of trying to express myself over the shooting of first grade students in a wonderful school in a lovely town in semi rural New England. It makes no sense. For America's sake, I trust it finds the courage to have that conversation about the role of guns in the country. Limiting guns may be easy compared to the real cultural discussion about violence in America. The gun is just the convenient and readily available instrument reached for to resolve a problem.or express rage.
Violence has deep roots in the United States. It started with centuries of the systematic genocide of the native Americans. Then there was a long history of enslaving some of its inhabitants. The US is a country founded in a violent revolution. It was shaped on thew anvil of a war against itself, the Civil War. The West was won at the point of a gun. Still today, the folk heroes of that era where criminals and killers. This continues. Movies and TV dramas created in the United States are often filled with gun violence. I find it interesting to compare the differences between American police dramas and those created in Canada or Britain. I personal refuse to rent any video where there is a character on the cover holding a gun. (This falls in my "only in America file". I usually can spot the American productions easily. In the end I seek out an Australian, British or Canadian film. I have avoided pointing out the dominant role of the military and wars in American society and history, it is so obvious and unique among Societies. I guess I could go on with cultural comparisons.
My point is that the problem with gun violence in America is more profound than limiting access to guns. That may prove the easy part. The real task will be to revisit the violence in American culture, own up to it, and find ways to transition away from it..