Driving home along slick roads yesterday I passed a sign that regularly makes me shake my head at this double-sided country I presently call home. It read, “ Le Special – Glocks, $425 and Up”. It shocked me until I remembered the police have to provide their own equipment, which is probably why so many of them moonlight as armed off-duty cops. It can’t be cheap keeping armed and no doubt they are on the look out for deals.
The United States is once again divided, by citizens who support the 2nd Amendment, ‘the right to keep and bear arms’ and those who feel even some of the security forces should be relieved of their weapons.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) held its annual shindig up St. Louis way last weekend, which 73,740 paid up NRA members attended. The aisles were lined with 500 booths offering everything from African elephant-hair bracelets to Winchester ammunition. Nifty holsters for those concealed weapons were apparently high on the ‘want’ list this year, a necessary accoutrement I’m sure if one doesn’t want to spoil the line of one’s jacket. I have often wondered how a woman manages to walk with a pistol strapped to her inner thigh. Or indeed where female assassins, not wearing the abaya, manage to hide their gun of choice. Under the bust? Between the breasts? Where?
I don’t believe the general populace needs to be armed, but as it’s written into The Constitution I can’t see that changing in my lifetime. I do struggle though with the veneration of tradition, the inviolable belief that those august founding fathers could predict what life would be like in 2012 and had covered all the angles back in the day. Society changes, and sometimes laws have to change to reflect that. Surely tightening the relative ease with which guns and licences can be obtained should be one such law. Though with presidential hopefuls like Newt Gingrich professing that “everyone in the world should have the right to a gun”, I have little hope.
What really shocked me though was that the hoarding advertising the guns is opposite a church and beside a school affiliated to said church, Lutheran for anyone who’s interested. Infants waiting to cross the road with the American equivalent of a lollipop lady can see that sign and begin their ABCs figuring out what G-L-O-C-K spells.
So it’s okay to have a gun store bang next door to a school but a liquor shop may not operate within 1,000 feet. A wonderful example of city screw ups occurred when a licence was granted for a liquor store, let’s called it SPEC’S, at the end of a busy road. Money was spent on making the storefront attractive, shrubs were planted and a grand opening trumpeted, only for all the fanfare to fall flat when someone noticed across a roundabout, around a corner and out of line of sight, a primary school. Moral outrage ensued and the liquor store was closed and the hapless official probably demoted to bin emptier. But it would be okay to have a gun store in the same place.
With all the arguments for and against gun control and accompanying laws, maybe it’s time to readdress them throughout all the states and to have a federal policy. Including those laws around the Castle doctrine, which more than half the states follow and which allows ‘stand your ground’, ‘line in the sand’, ‘no duty to retreat’ laws – regardless of whether a police dispatcher tells a caller to back off. A law highlighted by the tragic case of Trayvon Martin, the young man in Florida purportedly shot in self defence by a local neighbourhood watch enthusiast, a wannabe cop by all accounts.
Like every country I’ve ever lived in and there have been 12, there are laws and customs that baffle and occasionally repulse, but I have never lived in a country that is such a dichotomy. I find myself defending America to many friends from around the world, but every now and then I too am flummoxed.
I wonder what the special will be next week, and what new word the children will learn to spell out as they wait to cross the road.