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U.S. gun reform: Shooting the 100th monkey

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Pavement message and flower markings at a California vigil for the victims of the Parkland shooting in Florida (image via en.wikipedia.org).

Gerry Sont examines why the United States of America is the land of the insensate on gun reform, despite 1.5 million deaths as a result of gun crime.

AMERICA IS KILLING ITS SCHOOL CHILDREN, its cinema audiences and churchgoers — its people.

It’s nothing new. Why can’t the U.S. Government act?

Even Barack Obama couldn’t create change.

There are, of course, many reasons, ranging from the fact that the NRA is all-powerful, and that Americans who love their guns are far more passionate and active politically than the rest. That Americans at their core are xenophobic and need to protect what they have — or indeed, filled with avarice and entitlement, making them take whatever is not given freely.

The NRA is powerful, sure – and tout the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States – yet the Constitution has been changed 27 times over the years as it adapts to modern American life.

Let’s step into the TARDIS, shall we? It’s 1776 and the USA had just extricated itself from Great Britain. The U.S. Constitution is written in 1787, to help bring the feuding states together under one banner. In 1791, the Second Amendment was defined so that Militia could be armed. And fair enough — if your new government isn’t doing its job, then someone has to be able to overthrow it.

So America, barely out of the Wild West era, had just fought its War of Independence and everyone was still nervous about who was actually in control. Then, as America became a free for all, tensions grew, and in 1861 – some 70 years later – America formally goes to war with itself. By 1864, 625,000 citizens have been killed, which, we are told, was due to slavery, agriculture versus industry and good old federal versus state politics.

Let’s fast forward to present day and you can see how anachronistic the Second Amendment really is. The Wild West, War of Independence and the American Civil War are long gone. Sure, the arms industry is big money, but so are oil and gas, pharmaceuticals and telcos. So you can’t really say it’s the power, the money or the Second Amendment. It’s the 100th monkey principle.

The 100th monkey effect is a hypothetical principle in which once a critical number in any community change their behaviour, then the majority will accept the new form.

Following this principle, then, until the vast majority of Americans have a first-hand encounter with a semi-automatic and lose someone close, there will never be enough consensus to enable change for gun reform. If you need proof, look at the #metoo campaign. Like mass shootings, abuse in Hollywood has been going on for ages yet, not enough people were prepared or brave enough to take a stand.

So the United States of America, the "land of the free and the home of the brave", is also the land of the insensate. Since 1968, about 1.5 million Americans have died as a result of gun crime. If we say each of those killed had ten people who cared about them, that makes 15 million Americans who probably want more effective gun control laws. However, they need that 100th monkey. They need to reach that critical number before real change can occur.

America’s population is 323 million. You do the math.

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