IT was a sombre comment. The kind that is delivered from the heart – but the receipt of which stops the listener in their tracks.
A man was talking about the latest horror attack in America – the July 4th shooting during the Independence Day parade. He said that it was sad to live in a country where you could be shot dead at any time.
It brought home to anyone listening the stark reality of today’s United States – apart from the country being somewhat ironically named, it is not a safe place to live.
The numbers of random shootings of innocent civilians, who are just going about their daily lives and minding their own business, is now so commonplace we barely report it anymore in Europe.
The Illinois shooting was the main story on news cycles for a few hours because the timing was right for the news media – the story ‘broke’ in the evening in Europe, just in time for prime time current affairs shows.
But by the next morning, it was hardly being mentioned. It was too late for many morning papers, and by the next morning, it was old news.
The only reason it was mentioned at all is because it happened – ironically – on the fourth of July, on a day when America celebrates the freedom of its people. Not much freedom being enjoyed when you are on your guard every minute you step outside your front door.
A shooting that only claims six victims is – sadly – not really newsworthy anymore, because there have been so many mass shootings in recent years – with victims in the double digits.
And, as one commentator said, it does seem to be a very American issue.
‘It is devastating that a celebration of America was ripped apart by our uniquely American plague,’ said the governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker. He added that he was ‘furious’ because ‘it does not have to be this way’.
And he noted how regular an occurrence these senseless killings have become. ‘Mass shootings have become a weekly—yes weekly—American tradition,’ he said.
An America tradition. Let that sink in for a moment.
But what is also very worrying is that the ‘tradition’ is steadily becoming a regular occurence in Europe, too. Let us not forget that the Illinois incident happened just a few hours after a shooting at a shopping mall in Copenhagen in Denmark.
While Europe is a long way off the almost daily occurrences in the US, we do appear to be on a slippery slope. Europe tends to mimic a lot of America’s worst excesses. You only have to look at the rise of the far right, the increase in racism, and the strength of lobby groups attempting to row back women’s rights – even in this country – to see that where America goes, Europe eventually follows.
We can’t say we weren’t warned – any relaxation in gun laws here will, without doubt, see an increase in the incidence of violent murder here too.
We have a chance now to pre-empt a likely scenario – of Europe seeing a rise in mass shootings in the coming decades – by working together, as a group of united European states, to ensure that at least where this ‘trend’ is concerned, we don’t, for once, copy America.