Linda and I spent a month touring Europe this summer. We anticipated a wave of discomfort because of the global immigration demands for life and safety. We anticipated verbal antagonisms and increased gun visibility by persons and authorities. We anticipated the isolation of Muslim and African peoples from events and sites.
Our anticipations were thankfully unrealized!
We visited Frankfurt, Nürnberg, Chur, Bologna, Lecco, the island of Corfu, Lake Como, Bellagio, Tübingen, Montreux, Zermatt, Chamonix, Besancon, Paris and Amsterdam. The only place we saw armed police was at Schipohl Airport in Amsterdam. There we saw three teams of four heavily armed security police carrying handguns and semi-automatic weapons. At all other airports, train stations and a bus terminal in Paris there were no visible security police. Furthermore, at no place were there hints of violence or discrimination amidst cultural diversity.
We always tried to keep current on local and global news which is not easy with 95% of the channels being non-English speaking. But again, European gun violence coverage was nearly zero in terms of immigration and in-country violence. The coverage focused on Brexit, the economy, sports and the United States’ kerfuffles with President Trump.
We felt safer in Europe than in the United States!
Statistically, our feelings were correct. Gun violence in Europe is majorly less than in the United States. I refer you to the web sites: thetrace.org, protectmn.org, jhsph.edu and engageelca.org for documentation. Why the difference? Because it is more difficult to purchase a weapon in Europe than in the USA. There are more hoops to jump through, the police hold purchasers accountable, in many cases handguns and semi-automatic weapons are outlawed. Owning guns for hunting and sport shooting are more permissible. But the willy-nilly, candy store purchase of weapons does not exist in Europe.
Why? My guess is they have been through two world wars where tens of millions of people have been killed and murdered and they have said “Enough!” They are tired of gun abuse. They see the need for gun limitation. They have even limited the size of their militaries. Guns and war are a lethal mix that have stained their continent forever.
We in the USA can learn gun ethics from Europe. Is not 40,000 gun deaths a year a trumpet call for change? Does not our tragic history of slavery and Native American genocide teach us about the lethality of guns? At least, we can insist on universal background checks, extreme risk protective orders, permit to purchase laws, licensing and fingerprinting of purchasers, requiring gun safety courses for all buyers, elimination of stand your ground laws and banning of semi-automatic weapons. NONE of these laws would prevent a responsible person from purchasing an appropriate weapon.
A text for this week focuses on the question, “Who is my neighbor?” It is the story of the Good Samaritan. A stranger was robbed. Another stranger aided his recovery. Some of us know people who have been killed or committed suicide. But overwhelmingly, the people we hear of being killed by gun violence or commit suicide are strangers. I submit that we who are strangers to most of the people in our neighborhoods, cities and world, are called to step up, speak up and act up for gun violence reform. Lives will be saved, maybe our own. Let us remember the lesson of the parable, the life of the person who was robbed was saved by the stranger who was a Samaritan, an outsider, not one of the victim’s kind. We are the strangers.