News World In America the last taboo isn’t sex, it’s guns

In America the last taboo isn’t sex, it’s guns

gun control
A young woman looks at guns in Florida. Photo: Getty
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In the six weeks since I arrived in the United States, 129 people have died in mass shootings and another 418 have been wounded.

More than half the lives lost and injuries sustained happened in two shootings – Las Vegas on October 1 and Sutherland Springs, Texas just last week.

Yet despite the appalling toll and the ferocity of those two attacks, there has been no meaningful discussion here about gun control.

Instead, all the country is talking about is sex. And it can get pretty raunchy.

This weekend it’s comic Louis C.K’s onanism, after five women went public in The New York Times about his sexual predilections.

“These stories are true,” the comedian said after the women alleged he masturbated in front of them or, on one occasion, during a telephone conversation.

His defence?

“At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my d**k without asking first, which is also true,” he said in part of a lengthy statement published and broadcast nationally, word for word.

Oh, the times in which we live.

Louis C.K. didn’t have the conversation entirely to himself this weekend though.

Alabama judge and Senate candidate Roy Moore’s alleged child molestation was also being much discussed as was actor Steven Seagal’s alleged indecent exposure during a meeting with Australian actress Portia de Rossi.

Last week it was Kevin Spacey’s indecent assaults on young men and producer/director Brett Ratner’s alleged sexual harassment and misconduct towards a myriad of actresses.

Before that, it was Harvey Weinstein. The dominoes have been falling ever since his outing as a sexual predator and there’s no telling where it will all end.

More entertainment and media figures look certain to be named and like those before them – Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes – their careers almost certainly won’t survive.

Which is as it should be. These are important, long overdue conversations that will hopefully re-define workplace relations, not just in Hollywood but across all industries across the globe.

But it is measure of America’s strange reluctance to address its gun culture that one conversation seems to be bubbling over like a spirited group therapy session while another sputters out like some stilted social event no-one really wants to attend.

It’s as if Americans believe appalling episodes like Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs are the cost of true liberty.

It’s as if Americans believe appalling episodes like Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs are the cost of true liberty and that to do anything to address the issue is an unacceptable curb on those freedoms.

Which is nonsense, of course. One need only consider the positive impact on road death and injury tolls of strict safety regulations to see through it.

American still love and use their cars in huge numbers, despite numerous incursions into their driving freedoms.

Australia has led the way on this. Come to think of it, we’ve led the way on guns too with our post Port Arthur crackdown on automatic weapons.

Donald Trump trots out the other guns defence, usually advanced by the National Rifle Association, that Las Vegas and Texas were mental health issues.

That’s also rubbish and the statistics prove it.

“The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns,” The New York Times noted this week.

Americans own 42 per cent of the world’s guns, even though they make up only 4.4 percent of the global population.

The Times quoted a 2015 study showing that between 1966 and 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American.

Yet despite the overwhelming evidence, Trump and the Republican-dominated US Congress and Senate simply aren’t interested in facilitating a discussion.

Perhaps it will only happen if the Democrats win back control of those two chambers, which moved a small step closer this week when they routed conservatives in a range of city and state polls.

The Democrat victory that gave the most hope was that of Chris Hurst, a former Virginia news anchor whose girlfriend was murdered on live TV two years ago.

Hurst threw in his news job soon after the killing and started campaigning for a seat in the Virginia state house against an NRA-approved incumbent.

With the support of gun control groups Hurst beat the odds this week and will now take a seat in the State Legislature.

Perhaps it was the beginning of the other conversation America should have started long ago.

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