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A terrible tragedy


Peter Simmons

A terrible tragedy

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Like people across the world, I was shocked and saddened by the brutal murder of 27 Americans in Connecticut by a 20-year-old man after killing his mother, stealing her three guns and driving her car to the local elementary school where he shot 20 children ages six and seven multiple times.
My grief was heightened by having an adorable six-year-old granddaughter and like President Obama, who has two young daughters, tears overcame me many times watching the television reports.
It was the fourth time in four years that the president felt compelled to travel to similar crime scenes to offer sympathy and comfort to grieving families and communities. Once again gun control and the overarching lobbying power of the National Rifle Association (NRA) shot into the spotlight.
The NRA has the most powerful lobby in Washington and strong support in the Senate and Congress. It is mind-boggling that in a country with a population of 330 million, there are more guns than people. The president has said something must be done to control the proliferation of weapons. These shootings should be a strong stimulus.
Stung by the massacre, the manufacturer of the deadly rifle used has put its considerable shares up for sale. The power elite in Washington must move with similar haste to put legislation on the statute book to control the sale and acquisition of guns.
Wiping tears from his eyes, the president said the nation “had endured far too many of these tragedies in the last few years. We are going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this from happening, regardless of politics”.
Politics is the problem. During the 2008 presidential campaign he made statements suggesting a possible gun ban, leading to a rush to gun shops. Yet many states made weapon acquisition easier and the Supreme Court overturned the ban on guns in Washington. The world is watching to see what follows his promise for “meaningful action”.
Now top Republicans are saying arm teachers. Gun control was not a major issue during the recent presidential debates. The one instant I recall the issue being raised, Obama responded by saying he believed in the Second Amendment which provides the right “to keep and bear arms”.
The United States Constitution does indeed guarantee this right, a strong backdrop for the NRA and those who consider gun protection an inviolable fundamental right. Through the ages this has given rise to an epidemic of gun ownership and multiple murders.
A Gallup Poll discovered half of the population own one or more. The mother of the Connecticut mass murderer was the registered owner of three. An avid hunter, she taught her children how to use them.
Trained professionals will theorize and dig long, hard and deep to understand what motivated this young mass murderer, said to be socially awkward and autistic with longstanding signs of personality disorders, to commit matricide, murder 20 pre-teen children and kill himself. They will also need to try to understand why the three most heinous recent mass murderers were young men in their early 20s.
Hopefully, the Connecticut shooting will activate changed public opinion and congressional action. New York City’s powerful Mayor Bloomberg called for less talk and urgent action.
Even after the wanton shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford two years ago, no meaningful action in Washington followed a lotta long talk. The world will watch anxiously to see what results once the current shock and sympathy pass.
One of the problems plaguing the Caribbean region for eons has been an absence of shared information about what is happening in each other’s country.
With a variety of new communications media now available, it is in Caricom’s best interest that we share regional information on a regular basis reported by kith and kin. Last week there was a change of government in Bermuda and change of premier in Cayman Islands, major regional events.
There were no direct TV reports on either. That is one reason why the Caribbean Media Corporation’s (CMC) Newsline on MCTV’s channel 209 at 6:30 weekday evenings was a must-watch. The Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) repeated it just after 10 p.m.
Without notice or explanation about two weeks ago the programme vanished, replaced by CCTV which broadcasts news from China in English. It is a trans-Caribbean shame that CMC does not have its own channel dedicated to regional programming.
China is a fast-growing world power with which Barbados has built an admirably rewarding relationship. That notwithstanding, their newscast is no substitute for our own.
I trust that CMC and/or CBC is persuaded to explain what happened to Newsline and if and when it will return.
I wish my readers and all Barbadians a peaceful, enjoyable Christmas.
• Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat. Email [email protected]

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