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Americans have come a long way but violence still a trigger response

Date

Tim Schildberger

LA Lore

People gather at a makeshift memorial near Sandy Hook Elementary School following the mass shooting at  on December 15 in Newtown, Connecticut.

People gather at a makeshift memorial near Sandy Hook Elementary School following the mass shooting at on December 15 in Newtown, Connecticut. Photo: Getty Images

IDON'T know what to say. I want to be able to explain the school shooting in logical terms. I want to be able to justify calls for teachers to be armed, for automatic weapons to remain available at my local sporting goods store. I feel it's my job to give you perspective, to at least attempt to provide context as to why seemingly intelligent folk say such unimaginable things. But frankly - I'm scratching my head, and fearing for the future of this once proud nation.

I will try though. When you start thinking America has gone mad lately, remember two words: Civil War. Only 150 years ago, Americans killed more than 700,000 other Americans. In America. Solving political and social issues with violence is a long-standing tradition here - for good or unspeakable evil.

In some ways, this country has made remarkable strides in a relatively short time. But one thing hasn't changed - a searing distrust for government. It's the biggest cultural difference between here and Australia. Aussies still think politicians are there to do your bidding. Many Americans think they're there to get rich, exploit us and screw everything up.

The suspicion and loathing of federal government, coupled with a rich history of brutal gun violence, can, I think, partly explain why so many Americans do not want to ban assault weapons. It can also partly explain why anyone with the ability to read and write can suggest more guns will solve the gun violence problem. They cite Korean convenience store owners in LA fighting for their life, and ignore the children who shoot each other accidentally with daddy's gun.

Banning automatic weapons is a rational response to a tragedy, and must happen, but it's not a solution to America's bigger problem - our culture. Other Western nations don't shoot each other as often as Americans do. Why does it seem to be acceptable to deal with an emotional/domestic issue, a mental illness, or a workplace dispute with a loaded gun here, but not in London, Paris or Canberra?

How do you attempt to change a public perception when you have such an organised, well funded, and vocal minority who proudly hail the important role guns play in our community, and expertly tap into deep-seated fear and paranoia.

There's no quick solution to a cultural problem. It takes education, understanding, and bold action, and it's got to be sustained for at least a generation.

As I sit here in the United States in late 2012, I see absolutely no chance of any of that happening. Last week's violence was unspeakable and devastating, and must stop. But we both know it won't.

Tim is a writer, TV producer and proud former Canberra resident who has lived in Los Angeles since 1997. Twitter @timschildberger

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