Polite,heavily armed society

Posted on April 14, 2009
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When I mentioned to a Woodstock friend, Bob Wilson, that I found Floridians very friendly and polite people, he smiled and replied, “Yes, well a heavily armed society is generally a polite society.”

Florida is certainly a heavily armed society. I read late last year that legislation prevents employers from forbidding employees to bring guns onto company property. Employers can forbid employees to bring guns into the building. Employees can leave guns in their vehicles on company property.

As another friend, Allan Lynch, pointed out, that means when someone steals a car from a company lot, there is a good chance of a bonus gun in the glove compartment.

I don’t think anyone knows how many guns there are in Florida. In 2009, 541,000 of the 19,000,000 Floridians were licensed to carry concealed weapons. Another 95,000 applicants were on a backlogged waiting list. By state law, if an application is not approved within 90 days, it is automatically granted.

By the time you read this, one in every 30 Floridians will be packing, or licensed to pack, a concealed handgun. That does not, of course, include unconcealed weapons like long guns or handguns, long guns, or assault weapons, kept at home.

The amount of violence in Floridian society is markedly different from what Canadians are used to. For one thing, a convicted murderer was executed here this winter. It was not front-page news. I clearly remember the last executions in Canada at the Don Jail in 1963.

Every week, several people in the local newspaper coverage area are shot to death. Last week three young men allegedly retaliated against another over an earlier shooting. They riddled his home with automatic, assault weapon fire killing an eight-year-old girl. Since then, a man on a bicycle was executed with two bullets in the back. Recently a 19-year-old was shot dead, folded into a trash barrel and set aflame. Two brothers, owner operators of separate convenience stores were both robbed and shot in the same week. Police are involved in gunfire incidents almost every week.

There does not seem to be any strong feeling that the cycle can be broken. Gun supporters circulate impassioned messages about how citizens need guns. One shows a woman decrying that legislation took away her right to carry a concealed weapon with the result that she was not able to shoot the man strafing a fast food restaurant with an automatic weapon.

She blamed the legislators for the resulting deaths of her parents and others. However, she just as passionately insisted that gun regulation should not restrict automatic assault weapons. She rebutted the argument that assault weapons have no purpose in hunting. She said the second amendment is not about hunting but about the citizens’ right to defend themselves against their governments.

In Binghamton, New York, this month, a gunman killed 13 people and himself. There had been four other mass killings in the US within the previous month. This does not seem to stimulate any strong aversion to universal gun ownership.

The US is involved in two current wars abroad. There seems to be a larger one, with more victims, going on within its own borders.

It is always easier to start a war than it is to start a peace. I don’t pretend that it would be easy to get the combatants in the US to lay down their arms. It would probably have to go through long stages as did the gradual détente in Northern Ireland.

The US keeps trying in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I wonder when, or if, Americans ever will try to engineer disarmament at home?



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