Letting go of old beliefs this Christmas

IT’S almost Christmas, the time for our thoughts turn to our families – particularly the children.

The timing of last week’s Sandy Hook shooting and the ages of the victims combined to make for one of 2012’s most heartbreaking and perplexing stories.

The grief so clear to those directly impacted by the actions of Adam Lanza was felt across the world. So many of the tears turned to outrage and anger as debate focused on attitudes to guns and firearm laws.

It’s difficult to completely understand the depth of feeling associated with gun ownership in the United States. This week, I spent some time exploring pro-gun forums based in the US and it quickly became apparent that, even in the face of this disturbing tragedy, reform will be incredibly unpopular. Here’s a very small sample of posts:

“I admit to being a ‘gun nut’. Since my Marine Corps days, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all facets of the shooting sport. But my guns also serve a very useful purpose. I live in a very rural area with no local police force. I choose to own high capacity weapons for defensive purposes. And I practice with them on a regular basis. Who’s to say I have no need for such weapons? Police have them. Why should I be deprived of them to protect myself and my loved ones just because a crazed individual used one to commit a horrific act?”

“Nothing is going to happen with our guns ... it takes at least 15 fatalities before the traffic division can put up a stop sign.”

“They do not know how many lives are saved by guns, they only know what they have just seen. Nobody can accept children dying as the heartfelt pain is to much to ignore. No matter what you say, you cannot talk away that pain by talking about your gun rights.

The only way to counter this is to show facts about the lives saved by gun owners.”

“Someone tonight told me we should have to take a gun class every year in order to own a gun. I told her that is taxing gun ownership and not acceptable.”

In an interview aired on the ABC less than 48 hours after this week’s shooting, a resident who lived just blocks from Sandy Hill Elementary repeated the “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people” refrain.

The conclusion one reaches is that gun reform can’t be about improved licensing policy, buyback schemes or tax increases on gun ownership. All may help but ultimately will be ineffective without cultural changes.

For all his perceived inadequacies as president, Barack Obama has a quality which can impact cultural change. Indeed, he is living proof that the United States is prepared to embrace new thinking and ideas.

It was once inconceivable that the United States would elect a black president. Despite the ingrained attitudes of many Americans, the world holds hopes that amid the tears shed this week, there is a new resolve. To stop these desolate events, what seems impossible must become non-negotiable.

On more positive matters, Seven Days is taking a short break to recharge for 2013. In the next couple of weeks The Courier will launch two special projects – 40 Under 40, which examines the thoughts of the future leaders of Ballarat, and 50 Towns in 50 Days, an online and in print examination of the small towns and rural centres that make up our region. Watch out for these exciting new features during the festive season.

This year has been one of significant change for The Courier and the media industry in general. Thanks to our readers for being part of what we do each and every day in helping us serve Ballarat and beyond.

Have a safe and happy Christmas and great start to the new year.

andrew.eales@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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