Steve Cardownie: Will we see proper US gun control? Not by a long shot

A woman stands at a memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue after Saturday's mass shooting. Picture: AFP/Getty
A woman stands at a memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue after Saturday's mass shooting. Picture: AFP/Getty
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Last Friday I was having a discussion with my son, Calum, about which ­country we would like to live in if we were not in Scotland, when the USA came up.

Having talked about the usual ­matters that a 13-year-old would find attractive about American society we lighted upon some negative aspects, paying particular attention to the lack of gun control and the horrendous consequences we witness all too ­regularly in the media as a result. The next day we heard on the news that yet another mass shooting had taken place with the attack at The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh leaving 11 worshippers dead and many others injured.

This hate-filled attack was carried out by a self-confessed anti-semite who was heard shouting that all Jews should die as he entered the premises. Ironically, the first three people who took care of the wounded gunman at Allegheny General Hospital were ­Jewish, although this is unlikely to cut any ice with him.

Mass shootings are nothing new to American society, with data from the Gun Violence Archive revealing that there is a mass shooting, where four or more people have been shot in the one incident, in nine out of every ten days. Given that it is estimated that Americans own 265 million guns (which is more guns than adults) it is perhaps not surprising that such atrocities are perpetrated on such a regular basis.

On October 1 last year, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock sprayed gunfire on a crowd of 22,000 concert-goers from the 32nd floor of a hotel in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring almost 500, making it the biggest mass shooting of modern times.

In June 2016, 49 people were killed at a gay night club in Orlando when a gunman opened fire on the revellers and on December 14, 2012, 20 ­children aged six and seven were shot and killed along with six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The list goes on and on with depressing monotony.

The Pittsburgh synagogue ­atrocity was the 297th mass shooting this year, according to some researchers, with the Gun Violence Archive recording 47,472 gun violence incidents resulting in 9935 deaths and 19,590 injuries.

The same organisation noted 346 mass shootings in 2017 and continues to bring these horrifying statistics to the attention of the public – but, so far little, if anything, has been done in an attempt to redress this lamentable situation.

Despite the public clamour for proper, strict legislation, Congress continues to block gun control. The Washington Post recently reported that Democrats have introduced more than 30 pieces of legislation aimed at challenging gun violence in the past year but President Trump and other Republicans have initiated several attempts to loosen gun control. including the President’s blocking of a rule that would have made it harder for mentally ill people to buy guns.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has a history of aggressively confronting challenges to what it sees as Second Amendment rights (to bear arms) and shows no signs of letting up. The NRA spends more money to influence politics than nearly every non-profit organisation in the US and it has earned the reputation as one of the most powerful groups in the country. The non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics estimated that during the American election of 2016 the NRA and its affiliates spent a record sum of $540 million to secure Republican control of the White House and Congress including $30.3m to help get Donald Trump elected. The President’s answer to this crisis? Armed guards at places of ­worship and encourage and train teachers to carry and use guns!

The US has much to commend it but Calum and I reached the conclusion that the lack of gun control was a major blight on American society and it seems that, despite repeated atrocities, it is unlikely to change as long as the current administration is in charge.

Birthday celebrates carers too

As my mother, Jenny, reaches the ripe old age of 95 today, my thoughts turn once more to the care and attention she receives in her nursing home and the dedication and professionalism of the staff who deliver it.

With more than a third of nursing jobs in Scotland lying vacant, experts within the industry are calling it a “recruitment crisis”. The Independent Sector Nursing Data Report of 2017 stated that 91 per cent of care homes face recruitment difficulties while two years before the figure was hovering around the two-thirds mark.

The chief executive of Scottish Care, Dr Donald Macaskill, has stated that “despite strenuous efforts matters have got even worse and we are now at the stage of many care homes being placed at risk in terms of their survival”.

So, as I attend my mother’s birthday party I will raise a glass and toast the staff of the home, for without their commitment and ministration my mother and many others would not reach such a grand old age.

For all our sakes, let’s hope that recruitment picks up and that there will be sufficient staff to attend to those that need help and assistance in their old age.

Having a howl at Hallowe’en

Some Hallowe’en jokes that have raised a chuckle (or two) in my household some of which might be suitable for the wee dears to tell as they go guising tonight . . .

1. I threw a boomerang at a ghost the other day. I knew it would come back to haunt me.

2. A wee boy knocked at my door and I asked what he had come as. “A werewolf,” came the reply. “But you’ve just got your normal clothes on,” I pointed out. “Well it’s no’ a full moon is it?”

3. The best part of Hallowe’en is that it makes the cobwebs in my house look like decorations.

4. What do you call a witch’s garage? A broom closet.

5. What do mummies listen to on Hallowe’en? Wrap music!

6. How do vampires get around on Hallowe’en? On blood vessels.

7. What do you call a monster with no neck? The Lost Neck Monster.

8. What is a vampire’s favourite fruit? A necktarine.

Ah well! They are supposed to be corny!