One of the things I’ve noticed since relocating to France in 2017 is the absence of firearms. I’ve only seen them in the possession of on-duty law enforcement officers.
Of course, I live in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. Here, being civilized is one of the most highly prized attributes one can exhibit, often communicated in combination with an air of subtle elegance, a faint disinterest in many things, and an even less faint regard for other people.
So to sport a sidearm as you stroll down the rue de Rivoli looking for a fresh baguette would likely spoil the whole presentation…and possibly be illegal. (I don’t know the gun laws here, just the culture.)
Of course, France and the United States are very different countries. But I feel as though we might take a moment to inject a little nuance into our thought process and subsequent debate about firearms.
Statistically, quick research online revealed that France, a country of about 65 million people, had about 1700 of them killed by firearms in 2015. The USA, a country of 5 times as large, had a total of almost 40,000 citizens killed by guns that same year. Kind of a big difference that’s often pointed out by advocates of gun control.
Of course, people in France own guns. About 20% of them. They hunt. They shoot skeet. What they probably don’t have is a mindset that dictates the need for an automatic weapon to protect themselves and their families. I doubt they feel that it’s their right to own an automatic weapon.
The idea of military weapons in civilian hands just doesn’t make a lot of sense in today’s world. Yes, violence is present, but so are police. We have neighbors we can reach out to and emergency phone numbers we can dial in case of danger.
More importantly, our democracy depends more upon our possession of critical thinking than our possession of firearms. If your ability to analyze current events and your ability to detect fragrant fertilizer from government officials or the media are compromised, owning a weapon isn’t going to matter much when it comes time to protect your freedoms. They will have already been confiscated.
As in most things political, dogma is the enemy of us all. Reason is our sanctuary and our fortress. While I am in favor of gun ownership in general, I am opposed to ownership of automatic weapons. They can cause too much damage in too little time.
I am also in favor of more stringent background checks, not just for mental illness but also for those convicted of domestic violence. I favor mandatory and ongoing gun safety training, and regulations concerning how guns are stored in the home; and for registering firearms in much the same way as we register automobiles.
Thoughtful advocates for gun ownership, I’m sure, welcome these ideas, as I believe everyone is in favor of fewer acts of violence and fewer accidents involving guns.
Those opposed might include gun manufacturers and retailers, who often attempt to stoke fear in order to sell more guns, and those who blindly call for more guns in the hands of more people in order to ‘maintain our freedom’ from some often unnamed authoritarian enemy.
I think we need a new ‘gun lobby’ composed of both people who own firearms and those who advocate for gun control. At the risk of oversimplifying things, these two groups need to sit down, talk it over, talk it out, and find some common ground.
This common ground needs to be the basis for some new legislation. And some new thinking about guns.
The safety of children, cities, and citizens hang in the balance.
Not to mention the future of our democracy.