Guns and Peace in America

Glenn Reynolds calls attention to the transcript of an amazing broadcast on BBC radio recently. The speaker, Justin Webb, gave a remarkably balanced commentary on the correlation between gun ownership among Americans and the sense of civility and serenity that pervades our land — in sharp contrast to the lawlessness (and lack of guns) that dominates Britain.

Brits arriving in New York, hoping to avoid being slaughtered on day one of their shopping mission to Manhattan are, by day two, beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. By day three they have had had the scales lifted from their eyes.

I have met incredulous British tourists who have been shocked to the core by the peacefulness of the place, the lack of the violent undercurrent so ubiquitous in British cities, even British market towns.

“It seems so nice here,” they quaver.

Well, it is!

Ten or 20 years ago, it was a different story, but things have changed.

And this is Manhattan.

Wait till you get to London Texas, or Glasgow Montana, or Oxford Mississippi or Virgin Utah, for that matter, where every household is required by local ordinance to possess a gun.

Folks will have guns in all of these places and if you break into their homes they will probably kill you.

They will occasionally kill each other in anger or by mistake, but you never feel as unsafe as you can feel in south London.

It is a paradox. Along with the guns there is a tranquillity and civility about American life of which most British people can only dream.

Glenn didn’t mention it, but the speaker also pinpointed another factor contributing to the relative peacefulness of American society:

One reason – perhaps the overriding reason – is that there is no public drunkenness in polite America, simply none.

I have never seen a group of drunk young people in the entire six years I have lived here. I travel a lot and not always to the better parts of town.

It is an odd fact that a nation we associate – quite properly – with violence is also so serene, so unscarred by petty crime, so innocent of brawling.

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