Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Playing with guns

Another young man with what are now generally called “issues”, another slaying of the innocents. When will America grasp the fact – obvious to nearly all other nations – that allowing people to carry guns makes them dangerous?
Identifying the problem is easy. Solving it is trickier.
Even without the constant pressure brought to bear by the wicked – yes, that is the right word – National Rifle Association. The so-called "gun lobby".
The people who think the answer to the shooting of a whole class of primary-school pupils is to arm teachers.
Which must be one of the worst “solutions” to a problem ever proposed.
Not because teachers can't be trusted to carry guns – though whether every teacher, at all times, in all conditions and all mental states should be armed, I’m not at all sure. But because no teacher – no ordinary human being – should be expected to bear that responsibility.
Also because one breach of security – and such breaches would be inevitable in any school – could potentially put lethal weaponry in the hands of unruly or disgruntled pupils.
It should be clear to anyone not brainwashed by the gun lobby that such measures could only make a bad situation worse. But how to make it better?
Scrapping the USA’s insane “right” of citizens to carry guns would be an obvious and necessary first step. But it would only be a first step. The second step, the third and the fourth, would not be so easy.
Once the genie is out of the bottle, you cannot put it back. Certainly not by will, and law-making, alone.
There are an awful lot of guns out there on the mean streets of America. An awful lot of people (including a lot of awful people) who like carrying them.
An unintended effect of the Volstead Act of 1919, which made alcohol illegal, was that 1920s America became awash with booze.
Decades of draconian law against drugs have not removed drugs from society. Arguably, by leaving their distribution in criminal hands, they have made them a good deal more dangerous.
I have long believed that other drugs should, like alcohol (which is one of the hardest drugs in use), be legal but strictly regulated.
That regulation would be difficult, but necessary.
The same goes for the regulation of guns.
How, I wonder, would the NRA and their like react to a new “right” of citizens to carry marijuana, heroin and cocaine?


The US facts in figures
US citizens are 5pc of the world’s population
They own 50pc of the world’s guns
That’s 300million guns – almost exactly one per person

People shot dead in one year:
Australia 35
England & Wales 39
Germany 194
USA 9,484


What a truly fabulous sporting year it’s been for Britain. In any normal year, any one of the 12 nominees would have been a shoo-in for the BBC's Sports Personality award.
Between them, the glittering dozen won 20 gold medals at London 2012, golf’s Ryder Cup and a Major, a tennis Grand Slam and the Tour de France. Several achievements there unprecedented for a Brit. And not a footballer or cricketer among them – or, indeed, anyone from any team sport, which must be a first.
But at risk of seeming a party-pooper, and being accused of political incorrectness, I’m going to admit to a smidgeon of doubt. Not about Wiggo, whose victory in the popularity poll was right, proper and seemed inevitable, but about the whole sporty love-in.
Yes, the Olympic and Paralympic Games were great – unexpectedly so, especially for Britain – but were the Paralympics really quite all they’ve been cracked up to be?
Sure, there were lots of splendid triumphs against adversity and lots of terrific “human interest stories”. Many competitors achieved amazing things and deserved their share of glory.
One of the most deserving was swimmer-turned-cyclist and personality award nominee Sarah Storey, who equalled Tanni Grey-Thompson’s GB record of 11 Paralympic golds. And who has called – rightly, in my opinion – for more respect and equality to be shown towards paralympic athletes.
“The press have a part to play,” she said. “We should start to see a little bit more critical coverage of the Paralympics; in para sport people still shy away from being critical.
“It would be great to see people looking at both sides.”
So here goes, Sarah.
Jonnie Peacock, another of Britain's golden performers at the Paralympics, got a rapturous reception as he won the T44 100 metres, leaving the great Oscar Pistorius trailing in fourth. He is the world record-holder in the event for single-leg amputees. Fabulous.
But – like a high proportion of Britain’s Paralympic team – he only took up his sport four years ago after turning up at a talent-spotting meeting.
Good for him. And, as he says, “wicked” for the perception of disabled people by others – and, more crucially, themselves.
But if someone can go from beginner to world’s best in so short a time, what does that say about the standard of competition?
Elite sport? Comparable in any way with the lifelong devotion and hard work that has put Brad Wiggins, Jess Ennis, Andy Murray or Mo Farah where they are?
Sorry, no.


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