The absurdity is beyond irony. In a country obsessed with “proactive” health, screenings and tests; a country where celebrity figures urge everyone to “fight” this or that cancer with mammograms or colonoscopies or PSA tests; a country that spends over 16% of GDP on health care and still has the poorest health outcomes of any developed country, one of the biggest threats to health is an amendment to a 300-year-old document professing the right to “bear arms”.
Originating in a different time and frame of mind, the American constitution was a masterpiece of hope and imagination; that “well armed militia” (bearing aforesaid arms) and hope, all that stood between a young country and its colonial past.
Today, in the age of iPads and wifi, environmental change and globalization, it all seems so sad and silly. Particularly in the wake of the tragedy in Tucson a few weeks ago, where a Congresswoman and many others were wounded and six people died.
In terms of health it seems to me that that the United States would do well to stop its preoccupation with political rhetoric (not to mention those colonoscopies) and – for five minutes – consider whether the number of guns in circulation might, just might, have something to do with the incident.
As the Economist put it: (January 15, 2011 print edition, here)
“Opportunists who seek to gain political advantage by blaming the shootings on words would do America better service if they focused on bullets. In no other country could any civilian, let alone a deranged one, legally get his hands on a Glock semi automatic. Even in America, the extended 31-shot magazine that Mr. Loughner used was banned until 2004. As the Brady Centre, established after the Reagan shooting to commemorate one of its victims, has noted, more Americans were killed by guns in the 18 years between 1979 and 1997 than died in all of America’s foreign wars since its independence from. Around 30,000 people a year are killed by one of the almost 300m guns in America – almost one for every citizen. Those deaths are not just murders and suicides: some are accidents, often involving children. The tragedy is that gun control is moving in the wrong direction….”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.