Over a decade ago, I went to work and play in America for a summer on a J1 visa. Part of the fun was living away from home for the first time and being a lot more independent in thought and action as I lived at home for all my college years. One of the single most shocking things I experienced there was the first time we went to do some shopping in a large supermarket and turned a corner to see guns on open display. Seeing guns on sale in a place where people buy their food and household items was something I couldn’t understand then and frankly, I understand it even less now.
I live in a country which is not perfect and some of our laws make me rage, firstly as a woman and secondly as a citizen, but at least I know the odds of me or anyone I love cowering in a bathroom because someone with a legally held semi-automatic weapon has decided to go on a rampage is pretty damn low. The police here aren’t armed and I hope it stays that way. There is gun crime and some of it is horrific. I’m mindful of the fact that 20 years ago, while my parents had some workmen in tiling their kitchen, one of the men came in to tell us a woman had been shot. Veronica Guerin was a journalist who had exposed a lot of organised crime and paid a very heavy price for this. I admire her more the older I get.
Hearing about another mass shooting in the United States merely means that things play out in the usual way. There’s the shakey camera phone footage, the candles and the flowers outside the scene of the latest tragedy and there’s the inevitable bizarre claims that adding more guns into what had to have been a very volatile situation would have improved matters. How does this happen, over and over again? There are a lot of things I loved about America when I first went there many years ago. We love it so much we spent our honeymoon there and it is somewhere to which we will return. But it stands alone in how it deals with the sale and supply of weapons that kill to its citizens. And while the awful Orlando shootings now stand alone as the single greatest mass shooting for now, there is an awful part of me that wonders when, where and how the next one will stand alone as an even greater tragedy.