Brian Edwards Media

On the joker, meeting Charlton Heston and gun laws in America

 

 

Discussing long-term unemployment in Pennsylvania and the Midwest four years ago, Barack Obama commented: “It’s not surprising that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy, to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.”

I remember thinking that it was an excellent analysis of the American psyche, not merely in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, but across the United States as a whole. Needless to say, it brought the Democratic frontrunner for the Presidency a heap of trouble. Obama had crossed the line on two of the pillars of Conservative America – God and guns.

There really isn’t much point in debating either of these issues with American Conservatives since the love of God and the love of guns defy rational analysis. Both are sacrosanct, and to question either is regarded as willfulness or heresy. No declared atheist could become President of the United States and even Obama, faced with yet another gun outrage in his country, steers carefully away from the blindingly obvious need for gun control and instead recommends prayer as a salve for those grieving over the deaths of their fellow citizens. Since hundreds of Americans are gunned down every day in the USA, prayer doesn’t seem to be working.

Some years ago, I got to meet and interview Charlton Heston. A sometime Democrat and outspoken supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, Heston later joined the Republican Party. From 1998 to 2003 he was President of the National Rifle Association and the most prominent and outspoken opponent of  gun control in America. I expected to be flayed alive if I even raised the topic.

The Charlton Heston I met in a suite at the Intercontinental Hotel in Auckland was possibly the most charming, gentlemanly, unpretentious and amusing person I can recall interviewing in 45 years in the business. His response to my question about gun control was simply to refer me gently to the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1791, which protects “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”. It’s the law and you can’t argue against the law.

You can of course, simply by pointing out that the law was intended as a defence against tyranny and not to allow citizens to gun down muggers or burglars coming through the window. But it’s a waste of time really. God, the Constitution and the right to bear arms are inviolable tenets of belief to a majority of Americans.

But  it was also clear to me that Heston’s belief in these tenets did not make him a bad person. Some years later I watched that disingenuous creep  Michael Moore invade the home of a now elderly and rather frail Charlton Heston and attempt to embarrass him over his personal ownership of guns and his opposition to gun control. The only embarrassing element in the filmed exchange was Moore whose whole career as an advocate of fairness and decency in American society has been an act.

The puzzle nonetheless remains: how is it possible for a nation to respond to the daily gun slaughter of its citizens by refusing even to contemplate the possibility that limiting the virtually unrestricted availability of guns might be a good idea? Aside from the Second Amendment, the commonest argument I hear is that “it’s people who kill people, not guns”.  

It seems too easy, doesn’t it? “Yes, but the people who kill people almost always do it with a gun. If you took the guns away from them, they’d find it much harder. And if fewer bad people had guns, fewer good people would need to have guns to protect them.”

And therein, I suppose, lies the rub. Estimates on how many guns there are in America vary, partly because only a handful  of states require gun registration. But a frequently quoted statistic suggests that there are 90 guns for every 100 citizens. The current population of the US is over 311 million, 90% of that is 280 million. 280 million guns!

So it’s perhaps not surprising that roughly 100,000 people are shot in the US each year. That’s 274 a day, a third of whom die. That’s 91 people shot dead each day in America.

When almost everyone is armed in a country – the good guys as well as the bad guys – you’ve got a helluva problem. It’s a vicious circle in which the fear generated by gun violence leads to more people arming themselves with guns for protection.

I don’t know how you take those guns away from either the good or the bad people. But it’s clear that as a starting point there must be universal gun registration law across the country. And the criteria for owning a gun must be stringent and rigidly enforced.

But when the maiming and slaughter  of innocent people by a gun-toting psychopath in a movie theatre fails to produce an instant nationwide outcry for gun control laws across America and a liberal  President’s only answer is prayer, there really isn’t much hope that things are going to get a lot better in “the greatest country in the world”.

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74 Comments:

  1. “The puzzle nonetheless remains: how is it possible for a nation to respond to the daily gun slaughter of its citizens by refusing even to contemplate the possibility that limiting the virtually unrestricted availability of guns might be a good idea? Aside from the Second Amendment, the commonest argument I hear is that “it’s people who kill people, not guns”.”

    Um, yeah, but that is sophistry. I think the most compelling argument for unrestricted availability is that if you take guns them away from the law-abiding, then criminals will be able to run amok.

    However, when you compare death stats with other countries with frontier traditions, where guns were once a prevalent necessity of every-day life (Australia, Canada, USA), the USA is WAY out in front. Only South Africa, with a unique set of circumstances/history rivals the USA.

    But as you suggest, the gun-culture if too far entrenched. If they did try and place limitations on the law-abiding, the baddies-running-amok scenario would likely be a self-fulfilling prophecy…

    And not that it was any more than an aside, but since when does “love of God” defy rational analysis?

    Transcend? Yes.

    Defy? Maybe, but not in my (humble, and probably worthless) estimation…

    BE: ‘Transcends’ may well be better. Now that will have surprised you!

  2. On a trip to The States a few years ago, I asked a group of well-educated senior business people why they didn’t just have a day when everybody in the country handed in their guns. Their answer was simple. First, only the good guys would hand in their guns. And, second, if the bad guys knew that the good guys didn’t have any guns, things would be a whole lot worse than they already are. ‘It’s the same reason we need to have more nukes than the Ruskies,’ one of them said.

  3. “BE: ‘Transcends’ may well be better. Now that will have surprised you!”

    Not at all Brian. I’ve always found your thoughts on the subject thoughtful, balanced, fair, sympathetic, and refreshingly free of ideological dogma…

    BE: Now that’s surprising.

  4. America argues one side of the issue on guns and the other side of the issue on nuclear weapons:
    – permitting everybody to own an assault rifle and enough ammunition to take out a small town is a way of guaranteeing a reasonable level of safety for all, while making it criminal to own assault weapons would just empower the bad guys.
    – nuclear weapons are just for a few and any nation even rumoured to be considering a nuclear weapons program is criminalised and, if necessary, bombed into submission.

  5. Disingenuous creep, that’s a bit harsh. What’s made you go against Michael Moore? I’ve thought his documentaries were quite good. MM made documentaries popular, led the way for others…surely.

    BE: What I’ve got against Michael Moore is that I think he’s a fraud who’s successfully cast himself as a latter day Jesus casting the moneylenders from the temple. His entire persona from what he says to the way he dresses is a construct that has brought him fame, influence, and possibly, considerable wealth.

  6. How can you rationalise any debate when the US Supreme Court has interpreted the original right “to bear arms as part of an organised militia” to mean the ‘the people’…all of them, all of the time.
    In a nation where Janet Jackson’s nipple caused a national crisis, rational doesn’t fit.

  7. I would argue that the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution is the most sacrosanct thing in the United States, even more sacrosanct than the Bible. You can get rid of Bible teaching in schools in the God believing country but you can not, under any circumstance call for gun control in any way shape or form. Such a shame. So many needless deaths. This was no more apparent than the last couple of days where news stories told us how some cinemas have banned Batman costumes but no one is calling for any gun or bullet control.

  8. Hmmmmmmm, Charlton Heston was “possibly the most charming, gentlemanly, unpretentious and amusing person I can recall interviewing… et al” and Michael Moore was a “disingenuous creep”.
    Apparently, Adolf Hitler was an excellent friend… to his friends, ( notwithstanding that he turned 6 million people into SOAP).
    Did you ever interview (and succumb)to the charms of Michael Moore?
    U.S. gun laws are medieval, anachronistic and terminal, but I suppose as long as they are just killing each other that’s ok! ( but the’re not)
    You could have done better there Brian.

    BE: One of the more mindbogglingly stupid comments we’ve had on this site, Mr Hester. You want to compare Charlton Hester to Adolf Hitler and regard that as an argument. Then you want to associate me with the American gun lobby when my entire post was a plea for gun control. One of us is an idiot.

  9. Would it be fair to say that gun violence in the U.S. afflicts the the poor overwhelmingly more than the rest of the population?

    I’m wondering if this colours the politics of the issue.

    BE: I’m sure you’re right. I think it would be a reasonable assumption that the poor are both the primary victims and the primary perpetrators of crime. Both are by-products of poverty.

  10. Would it be fair to say that gun violence in the U.S. afflicts the the poor overwhelmingly more than the rest of the population?

    One on one maybe, but mass shootings at universities, colleges, theatres (sorry, theaters) and political rallies aren’t targeting the poor particularly. Irrational grudges are not a class problem particularly. And access to overwhelming firepower apparently isn’t a problem at all.

  11. @ Trevor

    “One on one maybe, but mass shootings at universities, colleges, theatres (sorry, theaters) and political rallies aren’t targeting the poor particularly. Irrational grudges are not a class problem particularly. And access to overwhelming firepower apparently isn’t a problem at all.”.

    OK, but that isn’t a particularly American scenario. It has occurred in other liberal Western democracies WITH gun controls such as Australia, New Zealand, and Norway…

  12. It doesn’t help that the USA has a culture of shoot first, second and third, and when everyone is dead or close to it, ask a question or two.

  13. “100,000 people are shot in the US each year. That’s 274 a day, a third of whom die. That’s 91 people shot dead each day in America.” Could it be that this an exaggeration? http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/homicide.htm

    BE: It could be, but I don’t think it is. Because I didn’t know the answer, I looked at several US sites providing stats on shootings. The figures I’ve quoted were common to most of them.

  14. “There really isn’t much hope that things are going to get a lot better in “the greatest country in the world”.

    They don’t see it as bad. I’ve heard the US best described as a vast experiment to determine how much crime, vulgarity, inefficiency, violence, prejudice and poverty people will put up with in the name of liberty.

    The answer is: “quite a lot”.

    A majority of Americans sincerely believe that this is how you run a country.

    On the gun thing, many Americans sincerely believe that ad hoc squads of armed yokels will be able to defend the integrity of the constitution against the government’s trained soldiers, attack helicopters, etc. I’ve heard well-educated and otherwise normal people make this claim.

    As to why these beliefs persist, my gut feeling is that it is largely due to the oft-joked about fact that Americans have very limited knowledge of the world outside their borders. They just don’t think anything different is genuinely possible.

  15. 15

    ” roughly 100,000 people are shot in the US each year. That’s 274 a day, a third of whom die. That’s 91 people shot dead each day in America”

    So its manifestly obvious that they themselves are way more effective than Al Qaeda can ever hope to.

  16. “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!”

    When the NRA’s mantra is so widely intonated and deeply ingrained in the America psyche, you just know any debate over gun control is rendered moot. And this was repeated over-and-over again by Charlton Heston.

    BE: Quite right. I would have thought it was clear that I’m a strong believer in the urgent need for gun control legislation in the US. But people like Heston believe they have a right enshrined in the Constitution to bear arms and they’re correct. It ought to be possible to recognise, as I did, the good qualities in someone with some of whose views you strongly disagree.

  17. I cannot say it bothers me too much if the Americans want to go around killing each other with guns. It merely serves to demonstrate he truth of the saying, “America is the first country to have gone from barbarism to decadence without the usual intervening period of civilization”.

    It cocerns me more that they believe this also gives them the right to shoot innocent people in parts of the world. I am sure that Afghani and Pakistani families when surveying the results of a drone aircraft strike are deeply concerned about American gun control laws.

    I am also rather more concerned with the fact that many New Zealanders regard it as acceptable to kill children with their fists.


    BE: I doubt that ‘many New Zealanders’ feel that. As to America, I think this is rather throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  18. While I agree limiting gun ownership of US citizens is the ideal I wonder how that sits against the shear size of the US military and arms industries.

    As a country the size and scope of their weapons collection is breathtaking. The US is the dominant supplier of arms in the global market and as we know does not hold back from using its arsenal in the many global conflicts it has been part of.
    Not to mention the number of people US police shot every year ( numbers 300 – 600) and the many States still with capital punishment.

    It would disingenuous for such a government to limit the arms its citizens carry.

    Some better role modeling would be a start.

    BE: I’m struggling to see the connection between a nation having a defence capability and an individual being allowed to own a gun. It seems to me tenuous at best.

  19. I’m not a fan of Michael Moore either, but at the time Heston was still president of the NRA and more than happy to front for the organisation. If it was inappropriate for him to be interviewed because he was mentally and/or physically fragile then perhaps he should have stood down by then?

    BE: I’m not sure if that’s factually correct. But even if it is, my memory is that Moore simply arrived unannounced with a camera crew and demanded to speak to Heston whom he then proceeded to berate.

  20. The musician Steve Earle says on one of my CDs “it’s WWWAAAYYY too late for gun control in America now”, and I believe him. The horses have well and truly bolted, and trampled the stable door to matchwood on the way out.

    And is taking guns away from scores of millions of responsible owners any more reasonable than doubling the price of hooch to responsible sippers, to stop the binge drinking 0.02% of the population from throwing up on Queen Street once a month?

    As always, picking out the nutters is the real problem – they act so sane most of the time.

    BE: That strikes me a counsel of despair. It’s the sort of thinking that leads to nothing being done, which is the current situation. As a start I’ve suggested universal gun registration. This would apply to the good and the bad guys. If you don’t meet the criteria for owning a gun, you don’t get to buy one or you have to surrender the guns you’ve already got. Easy to enforce? Absolutely not, I agree. But it’s the role of government to make and enforce laws in this as in anything else. I also agree that the good guys are more likely to co-operate, but they’re also more like to meet the criteria for ownership. At the moment what we have is national High Noon. Somehow the vicious circle must be broken.

  21. 0.02% of 4,000,000 is 880 people. IIRC, in the National Alcohol Survey in 2000 (I know a bit old) 25% of makes aged 18-24 said they got drunk once a week or more. (And admitting that you are drunk probably means that you’re not at the low end of the binge drinking scale.) That equates to about 1/4*1/2*456,540 = 57,000 people in today’s population.

    So maybe they are not all throwing up on Queen Street but it’s certainly a big problem.

  22. We are one of the top 25 gun owning nations in the world. Interesting, the top 25 feature all the Nordic countries except (strangely) Denmark plus France and Germany and Canada, whilst proudly at sitting at number four Switzerland (note – that is for privately owned weapons). There are 22 guns per hundred people in New Zealand, way more than Australia who have 15 per hundred population. Yet none of the countries I have mentioned having anything like the number of gun deaths the USA have. Now, I own some guns – a second hand air rifle for target shooting recreational rat shooting down around the hen house, a battered bolt action .22 for rabbits, possums, feral cats and other small vermin of all descriptions, and an ancient side by side shotgun. Contemplating this bedraggled excuse of a firearms collection it seems to me that what makes America unique is the huge number of modern and high-spec firearms they possess for no other reason than to shoot each other. My guns are owned simply because they all serve a workaday purpose and are adequate for the task. Americans own guns to use on each other, and to my mind that changes the entire psychology of gun ownership.

    Looking at the second amendment, it seems me a well regulated militia doesn’t need Glock 9mm pistols with extra-large magazines and targeting lights or keeping AR-15 assault rifles with drum magazines in a cupboard at home. There is something more at work here, and I suspect that additional ingredient is American paranoia.

  23. “disingenuous creep Michael Moore”

    “Moore whose whole career as an advocate of fairness and decency in American society has been an act.”

    Wonderful Brian.At last I find someone who agrees with me on Michael Moore.I view myself as being a liberal but this sanctimonious prick is the antithesis of all I believe in.I have read of how he has censored and created many of the scenes in his movies all to the credit of Michael Moore of course.
    Anything for a buck.He makes people like Heston look like angels.

  24. As I understand it the oft-quoted 2nd Amendment was formulated at a time when America had no standing army and so every (male)citizen was deemed to be part of a citizen’s militia, not unlike Switzerland today. Last time I looked, America did have a standing army of more or less reasonable strength and firepower, so it is now somewhat unnecessary for Joe the Plumber and his fellows to own high velocity, repeating killing machines, bazookas or even Swiss Army Knives if it comes to that.

  25. 25

    Who was it recently who observed that America was settled during a time when freedom was uppermost of mind whereas NZ was settled later when fairness was the vogue political concept?

    He saw that as the fundamental difference between the cultures and belief systems.

    I think the middle-class Americans don’t particularly care if the poor have the freedom to shoot each other and do so. However they certainly want to be able to defend themselves if any branch out and attack their betters.

    Without knowing the statistics I hazard a guess that their wealthy and middle-class are not greatly more at risk from violent death than we are.

  26. The American Constitution is founded on the concepts of the rights of the individual. In America this individual freedom is considered sacrosanct. Understanding the American concept of ‘freedom’ and how the ‘right’ of the individual to bear arms in America came about, is fundamental to knowing that gun laws and the way Americans are governed is unlikely to change anytime soon.

    The UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, countries that have guns but not the gun problem of America are founded on concepts of collective fairness, as reflected by the way the people of these countries elect to be governed. I would suggest that freedom and fairness, as equals, could have a lot to offer.

  27. 27

    Good heavens, Kat. We agree about something!

  28. Alan, we probably agree on more than we both care to admit at the moment. Our ideological ‘shoot outs’ seem often to share similar guiding virtues.

  29. @ Kat

    “Alan, we probably agree on more than we both care to admit at the moment. Our ideological ‘shoot outs’ seem often to share similar guiding virtues”.

    Just when the Millennium seems at hand, I’ll butt in and ask a question on the “guiding virtues” issue, if I may Kat?

    I think the aberration that is American gun culture is a result of unnecessarily codifying by means of a Constitution, rather than the pragmatic Westminster heritage we enjoy in New Zealand. If the 2nd amendment had never been there, America may well have developed like any other frontier culture (including us).

    However, as Sue Bradford rightly observed on the anti-smacking legislation, the purpose of law includes an educational function. So the Americans codified freedom to bear arms, and created a whole new dynamic, some would argue monster…

    I know Alan disagrees with my aversion to written constitutions, but how about you?

  30. The Constitutional right for every American to be able to bear arms, is so redundant. It was enshrined at the time where new frontiers were being forged by way of, “Go West, young man”. The Indian tribes of the Apache, Sioux, Comanche, Arapaho etc no longer pose a threat; the War of Independence was won; and the Confederate States were brought to heel. And the horse-drawn wagon cart has been superseded by the automobile.

    For the sake of quaint nostalgia, if these gun-loving American freaks insist on strict adherence to the Constitution, let them bear a single-shot long-barrelled musket, together with a powder pouch and loading rod.

  31. @ Kimbo

    I don’t believe a written constitution fits with the New Zealand psyche. Having said that, and not wanting to start a class war, the way we are currently heading we may need to beef up the Bill of Rights Act to protect ourselves against such actions as subjugation of the poor and the looting of public assets by the State.

  32. A slightly different perspective from someone who enjoyed guns and ultimately took his own life with one

    America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.
    Hunter S. Thompson

    Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/h/hunter_s_thompson.html#3PutwMehDvuC55ux.99

  33. @ Kat

    “…not wanting to start a class war, the way we are currently heading we may need to beef up the Bill of Rights Act to protect ourselves against such actions as subjugation of the poor and the looting of public assets by the State”.

    Cheers, Kat. Thanks for the response.

    And not wanting to pour petrol on that class-warfare fire, but I think I’m almost willing to meet you part way on that…

    …as long as additional articles in the Bill of Rights prohibit pauperhood of us all by prohibiting future partial nationalisation of private assets such as Air New Zealand and Kiwirail.

    I’m not as averse as you are to “privatising the profits”, but I am adamantly opposed to socialising the losses.

  34. BE: “As a start I’ve suggested universal gun registration.”

    That’s fine for New Zealand, but I doubt it’ll catch on in the States because the task is simply too big. How can any government back-pedal on 280 million guns?

    I don’t have a clue how the Americans might solve their problem but first, they have to consider it a problem. In New Zealand I imagine the task could be much easier – just pass a law that possession (and/or ownership) of an unregistered firearm carries an automatic 10 years in the slammer, but you can either register or surrender your piece with impunity by Jan 1, 2014. Register the owner and each gun (2 guns = 2 licences) and take sample bullets and spent cases for a forensic data base as a matter of course.

  35. 35

    Let us not forget Charlton Heston marched for civil rights.
    The problem with the Second Amendment is that it quite clearly states thaw owning guns must be within the context of “a well organised militia” – something most of the gun nuts in the US seem to ignore. Perhaps the US should just mandate compulsory service – then they can keep their guns (but oh, we know how they hate the government telling them what to do…)

  36. Hope it’s okay to put this here Brian, I have no other way of contacting you, the latest on Mike Moore’s blog re. the USA and guns, a Kiwi friend in the States (ex PA for Helen Clark) just posted it.

    http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/its-guns-we-all-know-its-not-really-guns

  37. In the aftermath of the latest massacre, American gun control advocates are on a hiding to nothing: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10822190

    BE: Thanks. That’s American logic for you. I assume everyone going to the movies will now take a hand-gun with them. Just in case.

  38. “BE: I’m struggling to see the connection between a nation having a defence capability and an individual being allowed to own a gun. It seems to me tenuous at best. ”
    Yeah you are right Brian, one role of government is to set a basic “morality of duty” ie thou shalt not kill and fair enough.
    On the other hand a government holds a monopoly on the legitimized use of physical violence.
    And yes we vote for this , we want to feel secure and know our government will protect us from others, even to the point of killing them.

    I guess my struggle is when a government appears to extend its mandated right to use violence into areas of ambitious policies where the line between defense and offense becomes blurred.
    Syria comes to mind, I doubt gun control would be taken seriously there.

  39. I am interested in how American’s love of gun power runs deep through their psyche.
    I was doing business in Colorado many years ago, buying around $150,000 worth of machinery from a supplier. I was up there doing the deal , talking about payment , 50% down and 50% on delivery to NZ.
    I asked if they wanted the usual bank letters of credit to secure things. They said no. I asked weren’t they worried. They said no, “we have guns and a flight to NZ is cheap”.
    Crude though it was, it was a powerful incentive to pay them promptly .

  40. Sorry to add a little perspective to your anti-American rant, but 90 people die in motor vehicle crashes each day in America. Not surprising really, given there are 270 million registered passenger vehicles in America. Spooky. Maybe they could do something about that. Take the bus more, perhaps? The right to bear arms is part and parcel of the whole notion of the American experiment. I just wish clever people like you, Brian, would make more of an effort to understand it.

    BE: Thanks for the ‘perspective’ however condescendingly expressed. Seems to me there’s a difference between a car and a gun. The purpose of a car is to act as a conveyance. Occasionally people are killed in cars. We usually call those occasions ‘accidents’. Accidents are not the purpose of cars. The purpose of a gun is to wound or kill another person, whether defensively or aggressively. Sometimes guns do kill people accidentally, but that is not their purpose.

  41. @Sanctuary.
    The Danish anomaly you refer to occurs because Denmark is a small, flat, rather built-up country whose hunting forests were never extensive and were cleared years ago. All the other European countries you list, plus Canada, have extensive hunting forests remaining.

    I recall noticing, on a road trip through Finland in 1972, that all the rural road signs were peppered with bullet holes. Made me homesick for New Zealand. (We don’t seem to do that a lot any more, though. )Some of the small forestry towns in Finland looked just like Tokoroa.

    My friend who teaches in Karlstad, Sweden, and lives rurally, has had wolves and bears in her garden in recent years. A decent excuse to keep a gun about you, perhaps. After all, her garage doesn’t have internal access.

  42. I went and watched Bowling for Columbine again. It’s on Youtube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jGtAcDefHg

    Michael Moore’s interviewing of Charlton Heston was pretty provocative but what the NRA did – going into cities where they’ve been recent mass killings and having rabble rousing conferences is pretty provocative too.

    The interesting thing about that movie (relating to NZ) was a policeman’s and local mayor’s views about how good it was for society to send single mothers back to work at the expence of being around for their kids.

  43. mpledger: “0.02% of 4,000,000 is 880 people” is actually 800 people.

    But sorry, mpleger – obviously I meant 0.0002%: 8. I’m not sure our binge-drinking problem is soooo out of line with western thinking that we have to miserise ALL drinkers to solve it.

    If you look at Wiki’s table of deaths by firearms (below), once you’ve removed suicides you’ll find that America’s gun problem is nothing like as bad as we think. Not that 10 dead isn’t bad – it’s just not a demographic-altering quantity.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate

  44. Why has the USA become a country where citizens have a need to pack firearms in order to protect themselves and their property? The socio-economic gap between the rich and the poor is increasingly widening and causes individuals to commit desperate acts in order to survive. Jobs and positive moral values are missing in the lives of many individuals. In NZ the gap between rich and poor has started to widen as well in the past 20 years. To be part of a society an individual would hope to reap some of its benefits. This is not happening in NZ today, as we more and more adopt the USA model of “capitalism is best”.

  45. Again, we have gun control!!! I and millions of other gun owners abide by these laws. This is not the Wild West days. The laws on gun ownership in the various states fill reams of paper. It’s not the gun but the person. This nut in Colorado could have used gasoline to burn people to death in that theater. “Any gun in the hands of a bad man is a bad thing. Any gun in the hands of a decent person is no threat to anybody — except bad people.” Charlton Heston. When a central power passes laws banning gun ownership by the citizens thereby giving only themselves the lawful right to have guns then there aint much left to do cept say, yes sir, anything you say sir, right away sir. Sadly, I fear countless individuals will bow to this just for expedient promises made by politicians. Guns are not the problem. People are the problem and you can’t outlaw people. There have been laws and societal rules for people to follow for all of known history with result being PEOPLE BREAK THE LAW.

  46. Brian

    You say you watched Michael Moore “invade the home” of a frail Charleton Heston. It’s clear your memory isn’t what it might be.

    First, Moore didn’t invade Heston’s home. Moore contacted Heston and asked to meet with him to discuss a doco Moore was making about “the whole gun issue”. Heston agreed to meet Moore the following day. Heston could’ve declined Moore’s request. Clearly there was no ambush. Second, Heston was well spoken and could clearly think and articulate for himself. Moore made the point that Canadians own millions of guns but don’t have the same rate of gun killings as does the US. Why is that? Third, Moore remarked that Heston had participated in gun rallies, rallies that could be seen as insensitive to the families of victims killed by guns. Moore wrote an open letter explaining Heston’s insensitive actions. I’d hate to think that anyone would support such conduct by Heston. Indeed it’s ironic that you could think such conduct is OK but criticise Moore’s conduct which was perfectly legitimate.

    http://movies.about.com/library/weekly/aamoorevsheston.htm

  47. @ Ross

    “Moore contacted Heston and asked to meet with him to discuss a doco Moore was making about “the whole gun issue”.”

    That is fantasy stuff, Ross. Moore wasn’t wanting to discuss “the whole issue”. He wanted to play politics by pinning the particular responsibility for a particular tragedy (Columbine) on a particular organisation (the NRA), and a particular individual (Heston).

    If you want an interview on that subject, then ask for it, and see if you are granted a favourable response. It is unethical to misrepresent your purpose – as Moore did – no matter how justly you or he think “the cause” is.

  48. Kimbo,

    It’s obvious you haven’t watched Moore’s doco. Moore asked Heston to meet with him about “the whole gun issue”. Heston wasn’t obliged to meet Moore. And if you bothered to click on the link I provided, you’ll realise that Heston’s conduct was less than angelic.

  49. Roger Ebert is one of the most erudite and well-known movie reviewers in the world. He had high praise for Bowling for Columbine but not such high praise for Charlton Heston.

    http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20021018/REVIEWS/210180303/1023

  50. @ Ross

    Don’t let the facts get in the way of the propaganda, Ross. On the contrary, I have seen the doco.

    The interview, which Heston obviously agreed in good faith to participate in, quickly degenerated into the farce that usually results from Moore’s belligerent line of badgering: a cheap “gotcha” expose.

    I have no problem with advocacy journalism. I do have a problem, however, when interviewers use the guise of questioning to preach from a soap box, by pre-determining, ignoring, or manipulating everything the interviewee has to say. It is bloody rude, arrogant, and an abuse of genuine journalistic and documentary-maker inquiry privilege.

    And I note the link you provided takes me to a letter Moore supposedly wrote to Heston dated October 30, 2002. However, if you check the records you’ll see the premiere date for “Bowling for Columbine” was at the Cannes Film Festival on 15 May 2002!

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0310793/releaseinfo

    So much for, “Moore wrote an open letter explaining Heston’s insensitive actions” BEFORE the interview (as your post implied).

    I do note, however, that the USA release date of 11 October 2002 was less than three weeks before the open letter to Heston. You don’t think the letter could be a cheap attempt to garner extra publicity for the movie/pseudo-documentary, and result in more money and fame for Moore out the Columbine tragedy? To quote Moore’s letter, “Have you no shame?”

    Or how about the fact it was written in the week before the 2002 US mid-term elections (held, as the politically astute like yourself are no doubt aware, Ross, on the first Tuesday in November)?

    Which explains well Moore’s reference in the letter: –

    “But your announcement…to hold ANOTHER big pro-gun celebration — this time to get out the vote for the NRA-backed Republican running for Congress”

    …which is nicely juxtaposed with Moore’s stated partisan purpose: –

    ” Let them pack their guns — we will pack the polls!”.

    So the Columbine dead are just as useful martyrs for Moore’s political cause as they are for the NRA.

    Ross, I have no problem with gun control, and I think the Americans are mad, misguided, and misinformed. But it doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my capacity for discernment and truth, no matter how “righteous” zealots like you think the cause is.

  51. Kimbo

    In your rant, you didn’t address the substance of the issue. Heston couldn’t explain or justify the use of guns, though he did say that mixed races were a factor in the high rate of gun deaths in the US. Could Heston have been a racist as well as a gun nut?

  52. 52

    Brian’s italics have run away with him. We need a few of these: \

  53. @ Ross

    “In your rant you didn’t address the substance of the issue. Heston couldn’t explain or justify the use of guns, though he did say that …”

    Which is precisely the attitude zealots take when someone suggests their black and white view of a grey world is not as they see it…

    and why it is a waste of time attempting to dialogue with them any further…

    which is why Heston pulled the plug on Moore, when he was being presented with nothing but variations on “Have you stopped beating your wife?”…

    and why I’m tempted to pull the plug on this dialogue with you, Ross, unless the level of the maturity of your debate improves.

    Or is it time for me to start demanding an apology from you for the millions of victims of left wing politics?!

    I did address the substance of the issue – Moore gained the right to interview under false pretences – in a similar manner to your initial post which implied that an open letter Moore wrote to Heston months after the event was actually his initial overture requesting the interview.

    Also Heston gave his opinion, which differed from yours, and Moore’s on the reasons for the US rate of gun deaths (“The United States’ violent history”). You have no evidence to suggest it wasn’t an honestly held opinion. Heston may be wrong, he is probably wrong, or at least probably only partly right. However, that is the full extent of the information that the interview elicited via the answers Heston gave in good faith. For Moore to then make a giant leap that Heston owed the folks of Columbine an apology, and he should give it on the spot was neither

    1. A logical step

    2. nor was it in keeping with the good faith under which the interview was granted. Moore’s entire and premeditated intent was to embarrass Heston, unless he (Heston) concurred with Moore’s hectoring and non-negotiable line of questioning. No chance for Heston to consider, or ponder, or weigh, and reassess that maybe, just maybe he was wrong (and just as an observation, Ross – we all have difficulties with that, but I’d suggest you have more problems in that regard than the average punter).

    Which, as stated before in my “rant”, and which you failed to absorb, is an abuse of the interviewer’s privilege…

    So, as with Heston’s treatment of Moore, no more answers for you, Ross, unless you drop the “gotcha” crap, and start to dialogue in good faith…

  54. heh. I’m sure Heston has spent years pondering his posidtion. So, it’s unlikely he was going to reassess it when subjected to a few probing questions from Moore. Heston, supposely president and spokesman for the NRA, appeared unable to give any sort of fighting response to Moore’s line of questioning. Perhaps his Alzheimer’s did have something to do with that? I agree with the general opinion that Moore did ambush Heston. But Heston also came across as a pathetic and deluded individual in that interview, and one who it is difficult to have any sympathy for. I prefer to remember him as he was in the first Planet of the Apes movie.

  55. “Heston,…appeared unable to give any sort of fighting response to Moore’s line of questioning. Perhaps his Alzheimer’s did have something to do with that?…Heston also came across as a pathetic and deluded individual in that interview, and one who it is difficult to have any sympathy for.”

    Not just “some”, “a measure”, or “a little”, but not even “any” sympathy?

    Fair enough, Dean Papa. Somehow I’m more persuaded by the initial assessment we heard of Heston on this thread,

    “possibly the most charming, gentlemanly, unpretentious and amusing person I can recall interviewing in 45 years in the business”.

    But your judgement speaks volumes about your lack of charity. It must be very difficult being right in all your opinions, and perfect in all your conduct. Do tell us how it’s done.

  56. I admit to squirming when watching Michael Moore interview Charlton Heston, who was in a very fragile mental and physical state and, clearly, unwell. It was an interview that should never have taken place.

    Having been a big fan of many of Heston’s films — including the Biblical and Religious epics as well as the futuristic (The Omega Man and Planet of the Apes) to the marvellous William Wyler western, The Big Country; it was hugely disappointing to see him become the NRA’s point man.

  57. err Kimbo, just to clarify, when I said it was difficult to be sympathetic towards Heston, I was referring to the ongoing debate over his appearance in Moore’s movie. I of course would have sympathy for anyone who is unwell. While Heston may well have been a charming and unassuming individual, I am in agreement with Effendi that it was disappointing to see him become a spokesman for the NRA. And as I said above, Heston’s responses to Moore’s admittedly aggressive line of questioning was very poor, to say the least. Which poses the question as to why he was appointed to the position of NRA spokesman in the first place. No doubt it was because of his fame, and the excellent propaganda value it would give the NRA.

  58. @ Dean Papa

    “Which poses the question as to why he was appointed to the position of NRA spokesman in the first place. No doubt it was because of his fame, and the excellent propaganda value it would give the NRA”.

    Probably. And he was no doubt genuinely passionate about the views and work of the NRA.

    Which is not much different from those well-known environmental scientists Lucy Lawless or Keisha Castle-Hughes acting as spokes people for environmental activist groups.

    Why are some seemingly unable to distinguish between respecting people as people (including decisions of their conscience made in good faith), even though you disagree with their political or ideological opinions?

    Or is it just that some choose not differentiate between the two?

    It must be very tiring putting people into boxes of “like” and “dislike”/acceptable or persona non grata based on their opinions of often highly fraught and complex social and political issues.

  59. heh. And why do some people insist on misinterpreting what others say to suit their own ends? Sorry Kimbo, but you really do run off at the mouth. Perhaps it would be an idea to take your own advice with regards to putting people in boxes. I’d also suggest a less aggressive manner of debating the issues would do you good. Your mention of Lawless and Castle-Hughes is either ill-informed, or disingenuous. Although they may have acted as spokes people they were neither the spokesperson, nor the leader of a group in the way Heston was. We can respect Heston as a person, and for his acting career, that doesn’t mean we can’t have an opinion on his political activism. The image of him with rifle raised over his head uttering those words “from my cold dead hands” is cringeworthy. Only my opinion of course, Kimbo. I take it I am still allowed to have one? If Heston really was sound of mind when interviewed by Moore, then tough luck I say. He got what he was asking for by accepting the position of president of NRA. But just looking at the interview again on youtube, I have a few doubts about his condition. He appeared very feeble, it has to be said.

  60. @ Dean Papa

    “Although they may have acted as spokes people they were neither the spokesperson, nor the leader of a group in the way Heston was.”

    I hope you don’t find my response aggressive, but that is sophistry.

    “If Heston really was sound of mind when interviewed by Moore, then tough luck I say. He got what he was asking for by accepting the position of president of NRA”.

    And as noted, I think my initial assessment of you, whether it was misinterpreting or running of at the mouth stands as a result of that latest contribution.

    IMHO, and yes, you are entitled to yours.

    Cheers, Kimbo

  61. Well Kimbo, your initial assessment was incorrect. You don’t know me, obviously. I wonder how my initial assessment of you as smug and just a tad narcissistic stacks up with reality? You are again being disingenuous with your reference to the efforts of Lawless and Castle-Hughes. The NRA is one huge, united lobbying group. Now, if someone were interested in making a doco on gun control in the US, the obvious person to seek out for comment would be the president and spokesperson for said group. Which, of course, is exactly what Moore does. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for Moore in this case, it just happens that that person is Heston. Now we know that Moore has an agenda, and he obviously prepared some loaded questions for Heston. So who’s fault is it that Heston seemed so ill-prepared to answer them? He is meant to be the spokes person for the NRA, after all. I’m failing to see just what point it is you are attempting to make here, Kimbo.

  62. @ Dean Papa

    “Well Kimbo, your initial assessment was incorrect. You don’t know me”

    Then stop expressing such uncharitable sentiments about people whose opinions differ from your own, which I’ve noted for your benefit, and I may resassess my opinion.

    Cheers,

    Kimbo

    JC: I’d quite like you both to stop this now. Play the ball, not the man.

  63. “But your judgement speaks volumes about your lack of charity. It must be very difficult being right in all your opinions, and perfect in all your conduct. Do tell us how it’s done.”

    Play the ball, not the man. Yeah, right.

  64. Now care to scrutinise your own posts, Dean Papa?

    I thought my statement was a reasonable statement summarising your conduct, based on the venomous statements you made. I took the time to repeat those statements back to you to clarify specifically what I was criticising and why.

    If that is interpreted as playing the man and not the ball, then that’s the prerogative of the referee. I’ll choose to disagree – and also desist, because I think we’ve both reached a stage where any mutual benefit from a continuing dialogue has long since left the building…

    Now care to scrutinise your own posts, Dean Papa?

  65. @ Dean Papa

    …and due to bad copy and pasting I finished the above post with a question that is vexacious because it repeated what I asked earlier.

    My apologies to you, and JC

  66. there you go again Kimbo, you can’t help yourself can you? I’m sure you’ve heard the saying about not dishing it out if you can’t take it? I’ve re-examined my posts, and am happy with my opinion that it was you Kimbo that began the impoliteness. Perhaps you need to be a little less precious, and examine your own conduct, for once?

  67. “I’ve re-examined my posts, and am happy with my opinion that it was you Kimbo that began the impoliteness. Perhaps you need to be a little less precious, and examine your own conduct, for once?”

    Ok, thanks. We disagree. Neverheless, I’ll attempt to give your advice a go.

    Cheers,

    Kimbo

    JC: And any further repartee between the two of you will be deleted.

  68. “I’m tempted to pull the plug on this dialogue with you, Ross…”

    You don’t react well to people who disagree with you. Maybe you should simply stop posting until you can add something constructive to the debate.

    Heston did indeed owe the victims of Columbine an apology. To hold a gun rally in the vicinity just days after the Columbine massacre was incredibly insensitive. Like Heston, you don’t seem to get it.

  69. @ Ross

    “You don’t react well to people who disagree with you. Maybe you should simply stop posting until you can add something constructive to the debate”.

    At the risk of incurring the ire and editing function of the moderator, I disagree. I enjoy discussing with others with an alternate point of view, and finding out not just what they think, but why. I find that most challenging and stimulating way to test my own.

    Where it gets pointless is when the same points get repeated, there is no real engagement and interaction with alternate views, and instead the level of volume and intensity goes up. Case in point: –

    “Heston did indeed owe the victims of Columbine an apology. To hold a gun rally in the vicinity just days after the Columbine massacre was incredibly insensitive. Like Heston, you don’t seem to get it.”

    Nothing new there, Ross.

    I’d suggest a dispassionate analysis of our dialogue will show that is the case, Ross – IMHO

  70. No matter how many people die in these tragedies, Americans will only ever respond with the usual line, this proves we need guns to protect ourselves . It’s in the Constitution that unchangeable, set in stone document written many, many years ago so it has to be relevant, right? Wrong.Take the guns out of the hands of these pelope and the shootings cannot happen.The gunman went to the campus with a gun because he thought his girlfriend was cheating on him. He had the intention of using the gun. If he didn’t have the gun, the most that would’ve happened is the other guy would’ve got beaten up. But the gunman certainly wouldn’t have been able to beat up 30 other people two hours later.

    BE: Correct.

  71. I felt sorry for Charlton as well! He was a bit too easy of a target (so to speak) – my favourite Charlton Heston movie is The Omega Man, an early 1970s apocalyptic film based, I discovered recently, on an earlier B Grade zombie film starring Vincent Price which showed on Stratos.

    PS shouldn’t the most recent comments be up the top?

  72. I disagree with you that the quote from Obama was “…an excellent analysis of the American psyche”. Politics is what it was, pure Left-wing politics.
    ————
    (And just so you know, I’m an atheist who is in favour of gun control (I’m not kidding),

  73. B; you neglected to close your italics tag when replying to Jervis.

    Now for magic: and it’s gone?

  74. Second time... lucky? If still italicised WordPress is set to strip [certain] html from posts.

    However you add the poignant little editorial remarks looks like they’re normally enclosed by tags. The reply to Jervis doesn’t have a closing tag hence italics heaven.

    Apologies for the boring nerd-aside; it’s hard to turn off.