Lawn darts were a horseshoes-like game where the player tried to get a metal-tipped plastic dart to land in the middle of a circle. In 1987 in the United States a girl was killed playing with lawn darts. In 1988 the United States government banned them. That was the beginning and the end of deaths caused by lawn darts in America.
In September of 2001 terrorists took over four American domestic airline flights with box-cutters. While box-cutters were already technically banned on commercial airline flights, there were no rigorous controls in place. In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks box-cutters were universally banned on airplanes and remain so to this day. That was the beginning and the end of hijackings caused by box-cutters in America.
On 13 March 1996, at Dunblane Elementary School in Scotland, a gunman shot dead sixteen pupils and one teacher, and injured fifteen others before killing himself. It remains the deadliest mass shooting in British history. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy both the Conservative and Labour governments of the United Kingdom passed draconian laws severely limiting the access and use of guns. That was the beginning and the end of mass shootings caused by guns in the United Kingdom.
This last example of human sanity enshrined in a just law is of particular interest to me. You see, I was born in the United States of America but reside in the United Kingdom. America bills itself as “the freest country in the world.” But I feel far more free in the United Kingdom than I did in the United States. So I’m not sure what is meant when they use the word “freest” to describe the United States.
While it’s true that I am not free to sling a rifle over my shoulder or strap a gun to my hip and stroll into my local supermarket in Britain, neither is anyone else. That absence of freedom paradoxically makes me freer still. Because there’s a thing called freedom from fear.
The government whose laws I currently live under uses its powers in this way to keep me safe. Allowing people to openly walk around with guns is an official admission of failure by the government to keep us safe. It’s an official admission that they don’t know how to do it, so they leave it up to individuals to take individual responsibility for our safety. But since most people are not completely responsible and many are incredibly irresponsible, that is a very dangerous situation that frequently leads to death.
We already know what to do with lawn darts, box-cutters on airplanes and guns. We don’t need to discuss it any more. We have seen what judiciously and sanely created bans and restrictions can do to make us safer and thereby freer. There is no more need to discuss it. Federal legislation outlawing assault weapons will save tens of thousands of lives, beginning right away, as soon as those laws are passed. Federal laws requiring background checks for gun purchases and licensing for lawful gun ownership will save tens of thousands of lives. We already know what to do.
Meanwhile, Republicans have trotted out Donald Trump at the annual NRA convention in Houston to read aloud the names of the children and school teachers of Tuesday’s massacre at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. After each badly-pronounced name that Trump couldn’t be bothered to rehearse was read, a bell was sounded. I kid you not. It is one of the most obscenely inappropriate things I’ve ever seen. It made me cringe and grieve further for those poor parents and loved ones of the dead teachers and children. This is the Republican solution to not making this recent tragedy a “political issue.”
I am routinely disgusted by Republican lies and hypocrisy. Some days are worse than others. This last month or so, in the shadow of Tuesday’s massacre, the massacre in Buffalo and the recent assault on Roe v. Wade has been a particularly fertile time for my disgust with Republicans. I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it until it happens, but it’s time for Republicans to go. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.