Last week was another one of those weeks in which it has to be asked if the United States deserves to be included among the world's civilized nations.
In Duncan, Oklahoma, three teenagers have been charged in the random murder of a collegiate baseball player from Australia who was shot in the back while jogging along a tree-lined road. According to police, one of the boys said they gunned down 22-year-old Christopher Lane of Melbourne for the "the fun of it" because they were bored. Bored, fun-loving punks ordinarily engage in vandalism or spray-paint graffiti on buildings, but in the U.S., where guns are plentiful and easy to get, another option is putting a bullet in someone's back. In this instance it was the back of a former Australian football player who went to East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma to pursue his dream of playing the great American game of baseball.
"This is not supposed to happen in this community," said prosecutor Jason Hicks of the tragedy in Duncan. It is not supposed to happen in any community but it can happen in any community -- like Duncan, Oklahoma, or Newtown, Connecticut -- because of the ease in which killers can get guns and the difficulty of getting common sense federal gun laws past congressmen bought off by and fearful of the National Rifle Association.
"This is the bitter harvest and legacy of the policies of the NRA that even blocked background checks for people buying guns at gun shows," declared former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, a vocal advocate of gun control, on Wednesday. Mr. Fischer warned Australian tourists to think twice before going to the U.S., and Australians are lucky to have that option. Americans have no place to hide in their gun-saturated nation.
There was good news last week, as a potential Newtown-style elementary school shooting was averted by a cool-headed school clerk in Decatur, Georgia. Prosecutors allege that Michael B. Hill strolled into Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, which supposedly had strict security procedures in place, armed with an AK-47 and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition. Clerk Antoinette Tuff apparently stalled the man long enough for police to arrive, after which he evidently lost his nerve and surrendered, though not before firing off a few shots at police outside of the school. The NRA would argue that Ms. Tuff should have pulled out her own gun upon Mr. Hill's arrival but a shoot-out could have triggered carnage.
Although a massacre was averted, television viewers again got to witness scenes from Littleton, Colorado, and Newtown that are as familiar here as they are unheard of in the rest of the civilized world. Roughly 800 students ran hand in hand from the school and onto buses, escorted by police officers. Frantic parents waited in a nearby Walmart parking lot, ears pressed to cellphones in pursuit of news. It is an agonizing tableau, one sure to be repeated sometime, somewhere.
The Second Amendment begins with the phrase "A well-regulated...," but sensible gun regulations supported by the vast majority of Americans can't be passed into law because of an truculent minority of congressmen. This perversion of democracy can't last and stronger gun laws must be fought for at the state and federal levels. Today, however, it is dangerous to live in a gun-riddled America -- and it is dangerous to come to America from another country in pursuit of a dream.