Justin Webb opened his remarks on the Florida shooting by saying, “Another day in America and another school shooting. And still nothing is done.” Predictably, it turned out what what he thought should be done is to ban the private ownership of firearms. Justin Webb is a genial chap if rather lightweight. I am going to thank him for his contributions to The Today Programme because these always revive in me the instincts, now a little rusty, alas, fostered by my old philosophy professor: “Look for the non sequitur, the logical solecism.” So here goes…
I listened carefully to what you said about guns in American society. You are absolutely correct of course. Guns are extremely dangerous instruments. “Another day, another school shooting,” you say. Dead right. Let us examine what happens in these terrible incidents:
One morning a rifle or an automatic handgun wakes up in its gun cabinet and says to itself, “I fancy going on a massacring spree at the local high school today.” Unfortunately for the gun, he is locked away safely in the cabinet. But his owner doesn’t know that during the night the gun has ingeniously manufactured a key with which he is able to unlock the cabinet from the inside. This he proceeds to do. Then, all by himself, clever Master Gun, catches the tube and makes his way to the school campus. The gun, all unaided, walks into the quadrangle and opens fire as the pupils are gathering for their lessons. Then, if the mood so takes him, the gun ambles nimbly into a classroom and continues his orgy of killing. All this is done without human agency.
It is a pity, Justin that in America guns are so bad-mannered and downright murderous. They should learn better manners from their colleagues in Switzerland.
In Switzerland 90% of the population carry guns wherever they go. Switzerland has one of the lowest crime rates of any country in the world and there hasn’t been a war there since a light skirmish between Catholics and Protestants in 1847. This, despite the fact that in Switzerland there are four million guns in a population of only eight million people. Deaths from shootings in Switzerland amount to 0.5 in 100,000. In the USA the figure is ten times that.
Clearly the problem is that American guns are so much more unruly, antisocial and homicidal than the friendly old guns in Switzerland.
You should ask the BBC, Justin, to send you on a fact-finding trip to Switzerland. there you should talk to the millions of Swiss guns and ask them to make their way to the USA and teach better manners to those pesky Yankee guns.
But Switzerland is a long way from America. You could, Justin, visit Canada instead. And I think Canada is quite near to America. There you would discover that the number of homicides perpetrated by guns – all by themselves and without any help from human beings – is seven times lower than in the neighbouring USA. Happily, figures are available: 8813 murders by guns in the USA as against only 172 murders in Canada.
And you know, Justin, we shouldn’t stop at banning guns. There are other ill-behaved implements such as knives. So ban all knives, eh? Not just axes and brutal hunting knives but breadknives, penknives and butter-knives.
Unfortunately, this won’t eradicate the problem. Other naughty objects and substances kill people too. Just look at the delinquency of bleach. Or at those murderous pillow-cases which leap up out of their blanket chests every morning and embark, all unaided, on wholesale smotherings. In short, we should be extremely ruthless and ban everything
And do be careful, Justin: mind out that BBC microphone doesn’t decide to stuff itself down your throat and choke you.
PS (to my old prof): “Will this do, Charlie?”