Professor Joe Goldblatt
As I walked home on my residential street in a wealthy neighbourhood in Washington, DC, a late model automobile slowly glided along beside me. Parking was difficult in this neighbourhood so I assumed the driver was looking for a spot to park his car. The car stopped a few feet in front of me and a man on the passenger side got out, faced me and pointed a gun at my head. He ordered, “Give me your wallet!”
Although I was an elected advisory neighourhood councillor who had lobbied for more crime control and set up the first Neighbourhood Watch group, I was stunned. My training had taught me to follow the orders of the perpetrator to save my life. Instead, due to my shock, I screamed at the top of my lungs “Help! I am being robbed!”
Suddenly a dozen front doors of houses flew open and the gunman quickly got back in his car and sped away. I ran home as fast as possible and called the police.
Perhaps this is why every time I learn of a mass murder in the country of my birth I shudder with the memory of that night when I too could have been a casualty of crime in America.
According to the latest estimates there are more guns than people currently in America. As a result of the plethora of deadly weapons there have been over 200 mass shootings in the USA in 2022. 27 of these shootings have taken place at schools.
Perhaps this is why when I rose this morning to learn of the latest massacre at a school in Uvalde, Texas where 19 children and two adults lost their lives in a hail of gunfire, I wondered how we may turn our well – deserved righteous anger into positive action to reduce these atrocities in the future.
Some will argue that guns do not kill people, rather, it is individuals with mental illness or terrorists who very often are the problem. I firmly disagree. The availability of high calibre and high power weapons with multiple rounds of ammunition are the single most likely cause of these murders. Therefore, the US federal government must immediately pass legislation to ban the sale of these weapons and also order more stringent background checks before an individual may purchase a gun.
What about the over 300 million guns currently being carried in America? I propose that their federal government offer a cash reward to individuals who surrender their guns and promote heavily the need for greater training for potential gun owners. Additionally, I believe that if someone must be licensed to drive an automobile they should also be licensed to own a gun. Some US States, but not all, require a person to obtain a license before they purchase a gun. All States currently allow some form of concealed carry and many States allow open carry so the gun may be displayed.
The wide variance in gun laws in the USA is a significant part of the problem. Most of the individual State Constitutions have a clause mirroring the US Constitution that protects the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. This clause was created for the US Constitution in the eighteenth century and needs to be updated, however, this will require the approval of three quarters (38) of the US States and is therefore very difficult to imagine it will be changed anytime soon.
In my home country of Scotland, I am concerned that although we have much fewer gun fatalaties as compared to the USA, this could quickly change and our social norms may one day weaken as we accept gun violence as inevitable. In order to insure that this negative influence does not reach our shores we must also strengthen our penalties for persons who unlawfully posess guns and promote education and training for all citizens regarding the eminent danger of these weapons.
A few years ago there were a number of Jewish synagogue mass murders in Europe and I attended a programme where a Police Scotland senior official told us there was little chance of this happening in our country. I asked him to offer some tips of what to do if one of our worship services was attacked by a gunman and he said we should hide behind a wall and await the arrival of armed police.
I looked around me and could not find a wall to hide behind.
As I recall the trauma I suffered many years go as one individual threatened by an assailant and am now, like many others, increasingly numbed by the rising number of mass shootings taking place across the pond. There is no wall to hide behind. Instead of seeing a wall, I now see millions of frightened people in the land of my birth who are wondering if they or there children may be the next casualty of a massacre.
Instead of searching for an invisible wall we must look within one another as rational and moral human beings and ask what kind of society we seek for ourselves and future generations. I have great faith and enduring hope that the majority of my fellow citizens in Scotland will demand greater protection, education, and training to insure that we do not follow the deadly example of our American cousins.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University. To learn more about his views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot