So over the last ____ years I have learned some things that apparently Piers Morgan could not learn. First that you cannot talk to most Americans about voluntarily giving up weapons, even if they are not members of the NRA, very quickly you will get into a ‘what if..” type discussion. So I learned simply not to go there. When we emigrated in 19__ to the house my wife grew up in a rural town in Maine, we moved in with my father-in-law. He had a loaded .357 in his bedside table, and a shotgun by the back door for ‘critters’ getting into his quite extensive vegetable patch. Well we arrived with a four-year old, a two-year old and a babe-in-arms, so I insisted the shotgun be moved. but the revolved I couldn’t do much about, especially as a Police Officer in the U.S. I now had my own gun to keep track of.
I remember talking to my father-in-law about the gun’s in the house, and he said he felt he had to have one in case someone tried busting down the front door. Now this was a rural Maine farmhouse, and while the front door had a lock on it, no one was too sure where the key might be, and because of the age of the lock, whether it would work if it could be located. So someone wanting to enter the house without permission would not have a terribly hard time getting in, just push the latch up and you are in. So then I wondered how many times in all the years he had lived there, that someone had tried to ‘bust in”, which was right around zero times. But the likelihood three boys growing up would come across guns left lying around and play with them, in my mind that was a given, but no matter how much you run through the statistics, the most likely scenarios, there was no acceptance of the logic of my argument.
So I have learned to speak American ‘man speak’ which includes a working knowledge of the more usual calibers for a hunting rifle, and the safe handling of firearms. But as someone who grew up in England, I am never comfortable with gun’s, which is a dangerous position to be in when you are in possession of guns, so despite having a Concealed Weapon Permit, and a couple of handguns, I very infrequently actually handle them. I suppose it seems silly now that I expected to transfer from being a Police Officer in England, where most officers are not armed with guns, only specialized units, to become a Police Officer in Maine which is one of the few states in the U.S. where you do not have to be a citizen to be a Police Officer, but it simply did not occur to me that I would not like to carry a gun.
Now I had learned my policing in a busy market town in Kent England, there was an ‘area’ car on duty at any given time which had a Sergeant plus two officers who were all armed with Heckler & Kough MP5, along with a personal sidearm. But for the most part, as an officer I had no need for a firearm, very infrequently came across any firearms. In fact most of the ones we did come across were either replicas, non working or did not have any ammunition. The sort of policing I learned was controlling situations by verbal process. when I started in Kent County Constabulary, you were issued with your wool uniform, with a wooden truncheon, which went into the special truncheon pocket in your trousers so it would not be visible and intimidate people. Then you had a set of handcuffs, which went in the special handcuff pocket, again not to intimidate people, then last the radio clip, but not always a radio which were in short supply sometimes. Of course by the time I left we had utility belts, ASP tactical batons, CS Spray and rigid handcuffs, non-wool trousers, all sorts of modernization’s. But the point was still you were expected to control situations more verbally, keep things lower down on the Force Continuum.
The problem with having a gun as a Police Officer in England is that it is very intimidating, but not over here, in the State of Maine alone there is five firearms for every man, woman and child in the state, so people are more used to handling, seeing and using firearms than they ever would be in England. For a Police Officer over here that leads to problems in dealing with people, you have to expect the likely hood that everyone you deal with is probably armed, and that you are also armed and have to protect that weapon from being taken away from you.
So getting back to Piers Morgan, who got into terrible arguments with people over here about guns, because there is such a difference in cultural perceptions towards guns, Piers could not understand a culture where guns were prevalent in everyday life, and his detractors could not consider a society without guns in everyday life.
And now we consider seat belts and motorcycle helmets. In a similar way to guns, laws concerning the use of seat belts and helmets have been shown to save thousands of lives, but to speak to some people it sounds like the very fabric of society is being threatened when you require them to wear a seat belt. One of the arguments against them that always gets my ire is when someone brings up their second Aunt’s friend’s neighbor’s dog groomer’s friend who was in an accident and either:-
A/ was not wearing a seat belt and her life was saved because she was not wearing one in a very contrived and specific situation, but which justifies the speaker in not wearing a seat-belt in any situation, or:-
B/ was wearing a seat belt and either died or suffered extensive medical injuries which they would not have if they had not been wearing the seat belt, which justifies them not wearing one.
To these people “I bit my thumb at you” and bow to your ability to construct sane sounding justifications for you stupidity in the face of reality. oh yes and people who smoke, you are stupid also, I know I was once young and stupid and smoked for a while, and now I know better, come here and let me educate you, look right there on the side of the packet..
We were travelling down the highway recently when we were overtaken by a lady driving her child somewhere, and she was smoking, and one of my kids pointed out that it was against the law to smoke with a child in the car. I had to point out that if someone is dumb enough to smoke as an adult, then making laws about smoking with a child in the car is not going to stop them, the only thing that will stop them is a rather nasty illness for either them or their child. And even then, one of my work colleagues is trying desperately to show that even heart attacks won’t stop her smoking when it is her only comfort, which is quite sad.
So some progress has been made with smoking and seat belts, perhaps in a few decades, we will look back at gun possession in the same way, but one thing I have learned, a British accent and a nice suit wont change the minds of many American’s about guns. But in the meantime, if CNN are looking for a replacement, I have openings in my schedule.