America has a big problem with guns. It is an obsession. It is also unnatural and unholy. Yes unholy. It is the only country that I know of that has the right to bear arms in its constitution. Actually, I am wrong about that. Three other countries allow their citizens to pack heat: Mexico, Haiti and Guatemala. But only one of them, Guatemala goes as far as the second amendment of the United States constitution. It is a fact that the good old US of A, enjoys the highest per capita gun ownership in the world. That is not a cause for celebration, in my view. More commiseration. I just happen to strongly believe that nothing good can come from owning a firearm. Guns don’t solve problems. They create them. In 2011, the most recent year for available statistics, there were 12 thousand 664 murders in the United States. Of those, 8 thousand 853 were caused by firearms. It is symptomatic of a society in trouble. A society that is afraid of its own shadow. Americans need to ask themselves some tough questions. Is it a society that seems to live in fear? Incapable of truly trusting each other and is that the kind of world, Americans want for themselves? The pro gun lobby is fond of saying guns don’t kill people. People kill people. But if they don’t have such an easy way to do it they might be doing it a lot less often.
Anyway, the purpose of this is not to talk about the right to bear arms. Well, kind of. Actually, what I want to do, is talk about a young woman called Rebekah Rorick, a high school senior in New York. Rebekah has just won a legal stoush with the school’s Yearbook committee. They had refused to publish a photo of Rebekah, wearing camourflage gear and holding a hunting rifle along with her hunting dog. This is the photo that Rebekah wanted to include in her High School Yearbook. But I will allow Rebekah, an amazingly articulate young woman, to take up the story after the Yearbook Committee said no:
“And I was like, ‘Why?’ And they are like, ‘Because there’s a gun in it.’ And I’m like, ‘But it’s a hunting rifle. I’m wearing camo. I have my dog with me,’” Rorick said. “I was ready to cry. I didn’t know what I was going to do. The only thing I thought to do was address it.”
And address it she did. She got her Dad on the case, who made a submission on Rebekah’s behalf to the Board of Education, arguing that the portrait was no different to any of the others because all it was doing was showing student interests. Hmm. Now don’t get me started on another of my pet hates. Hunting animals for fun? Sorry but I don’t see the fun in killing living creatures who’ve committed no crime. Anyway, back to the story. So what did the Board of Education do? They caved in of course. That’s the other big no-no in the land of the free. Thou shalt not take on the gun lobby because it is an argument you are never going to win. The School Board had a very different view from the Yearbook Committee.
School Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said Rebekah’s photo did, after all, comply with the board’s policy against promoting firearms.
“We do have a policy against weapons, but at first glance, and even now, I do not believe that this is,” he said. “She is not holding the gun in a malicious manner. She is not pointing it anywhere. It’s to me, in my opinion, a nice photograph of a young lady in the Adirondack region that enjoys hunting.”
These are weasel words that fool no one. The Board clearly understood the implications of upholding the decision of the Yearbook committee. The gun lobby would have been on their case faster than a speeding bullet.
But let’s just stand back and examine why the Yearbook committee might have a problem with a photo showing a young woman wearing camourflage clothing, holding a hunting rife. It just might have something to do with the massacre that occurred at Sandy Hook elementary school, where 28 people, where slaughtered by a young, deranged gunmen, or Columbine High School where 16 people were murdered. The Yearbook Committee thought it wholly inappropriate to show a photo of a student holding a gun. I think they were right and I applaud them for having the courage to make that decision, even though they probably knew it was never going to fly.
The photo will now appear in the yearbook. I am sure there will be those who say this is a victory for freedom. But I would simply ask, are you truly free if you live in a world where everyone is so paranoid about being attacked they only feel safe by owning a gun?
“I was so happy. I could not stop smiling,” Rebekah said. “I felt the board had a lot of courage. It’s something I’ll hold forever.”