Monday, November 9, 2009

Fort Hood Reminds Us: Our Gun Laws Are a National Disgrace

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Our current lack of health insurance for all is a national disgrace. But so are our handgun laws -- or lack of them.

You'd think you might have heard a bit more about our heedless national pistolero mentality in the wall-to-wall TV coverage of the tragic shootings at Fort Hood this week. But no such luck. How many times have we seen this movie before? It's only the locations that change.

There was only scant mention in all the coverage that suspected mass murderer Nidal Hasan had bought his lethal cop-killer handgun at "Guns Galore" in nearby Killeen, Texas. How charming.

Why is it that comic Stephen Colbert seems to be the only one on national TV who regularly reminds us about this country's twisted love of handguns? (Colbert keeps his piece, "Sweetness," under his anchor desk, occasionally taking it out to smooch its barrel).

Something I've written in my newspaper columns about for years bears repeating here:

Any country with as many mentally ill people as the U.S. that allows virtually unlimited access to handguns is on a suicide mission.

Gun sickness is our most pressing national illness.

I live within sight of the Canadian border, and Americans who visit Canada are often surprised at how serious Canadian customs officials regard guns -- specifically, bringing them into relatively handgun-free Canada. Where are these people's priorities, they seem to be saying?

(Note: Canadian customs can -- and does -- turn people back at the border who have a DUI conviction. Again, different national priorities).

Canadians recognize handguns as a direct threat to civilized society, unlike here, where the NRA and the gun-toters evidently believe we're living in Tombstone, Ariz., circa 1885.

How many more mass shootings and troubled-loner gun sprees (what the New York Post calls "Slayfests") can we afford before we finally get serious about gun control? How much longer will network TV news continue to soft-peddle and play down this most basic issue?

I don't really care that much about what drove Hasan to apparently murder all those soldiers, which has been the prime focus of nonstop cable news. The fact is, he did. What I DO care about is how easy it was for him to get the means -- a lethal gun -- to do it.

Not to belabor the Canadian issue -- we Americans are, after all, the noisy, gun-toting downstairs neighbors -- but re-entering the U.S. after living in Canada for several years (which we did) was a maddening experience.

We lived a major metropolitan area, Montreal, for seven years. And even in the more disadvantaged parts of that city, you feel safe. You never feel you might get shot, either by a handgun-toting robber or a troubled loner.

Coming back into the United States you lose that peace of mind. It's like a slap in the face.

Don't believe me? Ask anyone else who's lived in a developed country in which handguns are restricted and can't be bought as easily as cigarettes.

We have millions of sick Americans who need health insurance. But there are even more of us who live in danger of being shot by an easy-to-obtain weapon. It's way past time for the media to pay attention to THIS life and death issue.