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May 2019
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2013 - 01 Human blood-sports

James column for the SligoWeekender


When Adam Lanza terminated the lives of 20 children and 6 adults in Sandy Hook School on December 14th - who did he kill? Perhaps a future President, or a leading scientist with the cure for cancer, or a potential Beyonce or Garth Brooks? We shall never know. What is more important is that they were just children for God's sake, with their whole lives ahead of them, and now they are little more than mere memories for their loved ones. What makes someone set out on such a malevolent mission, to repeatedly shoot 6 year-olds at point-blank range&.one of them eleven times?

On the following day, as we were being driven to Connecticut for the final show of our Christmas tour we wondered if the concert would proceed. Should the show always go on? It seems that in a case like this it was important it did, and that the music acted as a kind of balm or solace for the full-house at the "Katharine Hepburn Theatre". Most songs deal with love or loss (as I cruelly found out in Dublin's Gaiety Theatre the night after my Mum died), but this time it was equally difficult to keep going with such seasonal words as "Bless all the dear children in thy tender care&." and "Sleep in heavenly peace", particularly with the sound of sobbing in the crowd.

I speak as the son of a gunsmith, the son of a hunter. My Dad, and several members of my close family, throughout my childhood loved to shoot duck, pheasant, woodcock, snipe, pigeons, rabbits etc. During the summers we reared pheasant chicks and ducklings, releasing them into the wild, thus replenishing stocks. After a few failed attempts, and several highly embarrassing stories of James attempting to kill, I gladly shelved my aborted attempts at the mental and physical torture and murder of living creatures. However, one thing that has stuck with me is that for Dad, safety was paramount. Yes there were guns in our house, and we were taught how to handle them correctly - I just chose to stay away from them, simply due to my lack of interest.
But surely if people have the right to own a gun, then equally those who don't own a gun deserve the right not to have one pointing in their faces?
Guns kill people  that's a fact.

People with mental illnesses, depressives, paranoid schizophrenics, psychopaths, people bearing a grudge, extremists, people with destructive tendencies and people who play violent video games 24/7 should not be allowed anywhere near a gun. Gun licences should only be obtainable after thorough police and medical tests. In the case of Adam Lanza, his mother, had she not been slaughtered, would have to take the brunt of the blame, as she knew very well that she had a mentally unstable son and five guns in her house!

Since the Northern paramilitaries were decommissioned, disarmed and their arsenal destroyed (we hope) there has been a marked reduction in terrorist atrocities. Since the horrors of Dunblane and the ensuing tightening of gun laws, there has been a dramatic decline in attacks of that nature in the UK. Yet in the USA there have been sixty-two mass shootings in 30 years  Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora etc  as well as countless one-off incidents. Within a short Celtic Tenor US tour there were the shooting sprees in Oregon and Connecticut. There are over 300 million non-military firearms in the USA  that is more than one each! Mr Obama is pushing for a tightening of gun laws in the US, but fighting against a well-founded gun lobby with high profile celebrity figures. Sadly as the victims were being buried, there was a surge in US gun sales.
On the same day as the Connecticut massacre, in China Min Yongjan broke into a classroom, wreaking havoc with a knife. But none of those 23 kids died.
I am not naïve  sadly if people want to kill people they'll find a way, as in the case of Anders Behring Breivik. There also has to be a tightening of mental illness laws, and parents must take responsibility at the first signs of behavioural changes. But again  guns kill people. Pointing a gun of any kind in a child's face must never be allowed to happen.

Remove assault weapons, semi-automatics and high-capacity clips from the equation  that'd be a start? I abhor coursing, bull-fighting and dog-fights : I choose not to engage in blood-sports of any kind.

Human blood-sports  never acceptable.