Making changes

NZ changed its gun laws within a few days of the catastrophic shooting in Christchurch. On NPR, PBS, all over the internet, there’s a response that marvels in how “huge” this is. It’s not huge. It’s a regulatory adjustment, requiring a small sacrifice in giving up access to some kinds of weapon from a small group of people who seem pretty willing to go along with it, and a fairly high one-time monetary cost to the general public to compensate those people, that we’ve decided is more than worth it. For a country that doesn’t revel in a gun culture like the US, this is not a major change, it’s a correction to a situation that most NZ’ers didn’t really realize was a problem.

For a country where guns are so embedded in the political and cultural environment and that have engendered literally decades of argument, I can see that it might be considered astounding that another country could just say, “Oh! There’s a problem. Let’s fix it quickly.” and just do that.

I’ve seen the argument that gun ownership is a right in the US, as guaranteed in the Constitution. Sure. But the Constitution is a law, designed to be clarified and, when needed, changed. May I own a bazooka under the Second Amendment? How about a tank? How about an anti-tank missile? Isn’t there a more fundamental right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that implies that I can go to church and expect not to be shot? So, exactly what’s the argument again? And how is it serving us? Are we all going to take up arms against the US government?

For years, when people have questioned me about the difference between NZ and US, I’ve mentioned (among other things) that making progress in the US is so difficult; everything has to be argued about and fought over, including things that perhaps 80% of the population think are fine ideas. It’s getting harder and harder for me to put up with.

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