Tuesday, 25 December 2012


A decision not taken lightly

    I first visited the United States forty-seven years ago and I have done so many times since, most recently two months ago. There are beautiful areas to visit and great birds to find.
    But I will not do it again.
    Even though we have always been concerned about the level of gun ownership and the pervasive use of weapons in the United States we continued to go there. We felt distinctly ill at ease in Arizona where people carried weapons openly and now that so many states, including Arizona, have concealed weapons laws which enable anyone to carry a hidden weapon, which he or she can buy at a gun show without background check or training, we would feel a whole lot more nervous.


 Gun ownership in the United States approaches eighty-five per cent of the population so it is quite conceivable that one could sit in a restaurant where more than three quarters of one's fellow diners could be carrying a weapon. God forbid that a dispute should break out in so confined an area.



    As the recent massacre of children at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut so tragically illustrates carnage wrought by guns can happen anywhere – and in the blink of an eye. Simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time can spell death. Events as mundane as going to school, going to hear a congresswoman speak, going to church, walking down the street can be your last act.
    Guns are everywhere, often carried by people who are unable to get help for their problems, and which they can secure at will. They can be bought on line on the computer in your home, at a department store, at a gun show, from a friend. And people are not content with one gun, or even one rifle to protect against rabid animals in a rural area, for example. Many gun owners have whole arsenals of weapons, including military style models like the Bushmaster .223 assault rifle used in the Connecticut school massacre. This weapon is designed exclusively to destroy human life. It has no other purpose, but I could quite literally cross the border today and buy one. Why this kind of weapon is available to anyone who cares to buy it is beyond logic.
    I was astounded to hear Jason Chaffetz, a Republican congressman from Utah talk about the Glock 23 which he carries under a concealed weapons permit. This .40 calibre pistol holds seventeen bullets in the magazine and fires up to five per second and he says we don't have to worry about him. I sure don't want to be anywhere near him, or any of the countless others carrying similar weapons, when he loses his temper one day.
    There have been sixteen mass shootings in the United States this year leaving eighty-eight people dead, to say nothing of all the other shootings that happen every day – the grim statistics are there for all to see. This is a society where, as we have seen in our own lifetime, if you don't like a President's politics you assassinate him or try to anyway. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated social change in a non-violent way and his life ended with a bullet. Bobby Kennedy sought a better America and paid for it with his life. John Lennon was assassinated, George Wallace was maimed for life, Gabrielle Gifford was on the wrong side of the political spectrum in her state and had her life ruined by a gun. The litany goes on.
    I have birded in many beautiful areas in the United States. There are still birds to see there and old friends to visit. I am sorry that I will not be doing either ever again. In life there are certain “tipping points,” the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back, so to speak. The Connecticut school massacre was it for me and my wife. There are just too many other wonderful destinations without walking around in fear of our lives.
    As the old song says, “Thanks for the memories.”

9 comments:

  1. I feel exactly the same way. I will no longer go there.

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  2. This is a well written and thoughtful piece. It summarizes my feelings exactly. Bravo!

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  3. Well said. I used to live in Brooklyn, NY. It's crazy down there. Thank God I moved to Canada.

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  4. The United States is becoming a failed society. I recently heard some whacko disputing the facts about guns on CNN. His rants and distorted facts were truly scary. I do not go there at all.

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  5. When one sees the reaction to President Obama's proposals for very modest gun controls, one really begins to question the values and principles of US society. In most countries these proposals would be considered to not go far enough by a long shot. There are many places in Canada to visit, to say nothing of the rest of the world, and no one in this office has the slightest desire to spend our money in this most violent of all countries.

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  6. You have spoken from my soul. It is frightening to see the direction in which US society seems to be heading, but it's also a crying shame to witness a nation that would have had so much to offer the world, sink into such an abyss. Like you, I will never again set foot on US soil.

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  7. Very well written. The gun culture in the United States is something I just cannot understand!

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  8. I was saddened to hear of the death of Hugo Chavez. He was obviously a controversial figure and did some stupid things from time to time, but at least he fought against the insidious and awful influence of the United States, a seriously flawed society, in Latin America. Too bad Salvador Allende could not have done so well.The US has blood on its hands in Chile.

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  9. In its own way this is quite profound. It is like coming to the end of one's rope with a recalcitrant family member. At some point you just give up.

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