What price individual freedom?

Once again we are being bombarded by questions that are virtually impossible to answer. The average mind cannot find a satisfactory explanation for the recent student massacre in Virginia. It is of relatively little importance whether the killer was mentally disturbed, whether the police were late arriving at the scene, or whether any university officials should shoulder some of the blame for the tragedy. Society always finds a way to explain such disasters so that it can bring some sense of closure and move on. What is important, however, is the fact that America is a country that is moving increasingly toward a gun culture. This is a culture which may be inconceivable for the average European citizen but which constitutes an integral part of US history and a key component of the American dream. The right to carry a gun is enshrined in the US Constitution and is the pride and joy of many poor and rich citizens alike. These days in America it is easier to buy a gun than to get a driving license. In some supermarkets, you can find sections that sell firearms. So woe betide whoever decides to challenge the American ideology or question the sanctity of the relationship between a citizen and his gun. How many American politicians would dare propose amendments to the controversial article of the US Constitution on gun ownership? How many would dare produce statistics on violence wreaked by guns in the USA, or circulate photographs from massacres such as the one at Columbine high school in April 1999? It is a gamble politicians are bound to lose. One of the most powerful lobbies in the USA is the National Rifle Association. The NRA lobby has the power to immediately terminate the political career of any would-be anti-gun reformer or crusader. But there are some 17,000 fatal shootings in the USA each year; every four hours an American is killed, and every eight hours a young American commits suicide. The Virginia massacre will remain in the news as long as media sensationalism can prolong it. Meanwhile, the next such killer is already planning a similar bloodbath. And the only difference will be in the body count. The point is that the main thing which makes American culture different from other cultures is its guns. The deep social inequalities, the peculiar system of social security, even those strange American sports are all understandable. But the guns are something else – they are inextricably linked to the citizen’s individual liberty. However, they are also associated with the refusal of citizens to entrust the state with their protection. This is why many Americans believe that massacres such as the one in Virginia are an inevitable evil, the price they have to pay for their freedom.

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