Texas massacre reminds me why I’d rather live in Italy

Wikiwand.com photo

Has Donald Trump stopped dancing on the graves of 19 schoolchildren? Has the National Rifle Association finally ended its convention where the Big Cheeto ended his speech with his signature jig?

I think so. Didn’t I hear a 21-gun salute at the end Sunday? It wasn’t for the 19 children and two adults killed in the worst school shooting in U.S. history (and that’s saying something) just five days earlier and 300 miles away. It was aimed at Americans with the audacity to want changes in gun laws that make attending school in the U.S. like prowling gang territory in El Salvador.

I’ve lived in Rome for nearly 8 ½ years, and I’m stunned at how the U.S. is crumbling from afar. Cops murdering unarmed Blacks. Most Covid deaths in the world. Trump supporters attacking the capitol based on his unhinged lies about election “fraud.” 

Texas massacre

Now we have an 18-year-old buying two semi-automatic AR-15 rifles and blowing away 19 kids aged 9-11 and two adults in Uvalde, Texas. He bought them legally – which is his “CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT!” This comes eight days after 13 were killed in a store in Buffalo, N.,Y., and seven days after a man locked the doors of a church in Laguna Woods, Calif., and killed one and injured five. If you’re scoring at home, use a pencil. Another mass shooting is due soon.

Every day in Italy I’m reminded why I retired here. Best food in the world. Incredible scenery. Friendly people. The Uvalde shooting May 24 reminded me again of another reason. 

It’s safe. It has responsible, restrictive gun laws. It’s never had a mass school shooting. Ever. Not one.

In fact, the only mass shooting in Italy since 1985 came in 2018 when a racist-inspired drive-by targeted a group of African immigrants in Macerata in the Marche region. Number of dead: zero.

I blogged on this topic five years ago after that Las Vegas gunman hauled enough guns to arm Honduras into his hotel room and murdered 58 people. I wrote that Italy’s more restrictive gun laws have led to fewer gun deaths.

A review

It’s time for an update. First, a review:

To own a gun in Italy, where there are 8 million registered compared to the United States’ 400 million, one must:

  • Apply for a license.
  • Take a firearms safety course and receive a certificate from a shooting range stating you can safely use the gun.
  • Not have a criminal record.
  • Have a physician’s signed certificate saying you don’t suffer from drug addiction or mental health issues. The same goes for gifted guns.
  • Register with the local police station within 72 hours after the purchase. The gun seller must notify the police of the sale also within 72 hours.
  • To carry a gun outside the home one must have a hunting or sporting license and the gun can be with you only if you’re going to hunt or to the range.

In Italy, you can not:

  • Buy a semi-automatic weapon.
  • Have more than three “common” guns, considered usually hand guns.
  • Carry a concealed weapon unless you prove your work puts you at risk, and this rare license must be renewed every year.

Italian gun laws go beyond this. I’ve read of gun owners who threatened others and were reported to the Carabinieri. The police confiscated their guns. They had to wait a year to have them returned.

The numbers

The end result is a society where gun deaths still make headlines. According to the World Population Review, Italy this year has had 1.31 gun deaths per 100,000 population. The U.S. has had 12.21, among the 10 highest in the world. 

Gun deaths (including suicide) per 100,000 people 2022:

  1. Honduras 60.0
  2. Venezuela 49.2
  3. El Salvador 45.6
  4. Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) 37.2
  5. Guatemala 34.1
  6. Jamaica 30.7
  7. Brazil 21.9
  8. Colombia 18.7
  9. Panama 15.1
  10. United States 12.2

In 2014, Italy had 475 gun deaths; the U.S., according to CityData.com, had 33,169. In 2017 guns caused a record 39,773 deaths in the U.S., including 24,000 by suicide, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2020, the U.S. total figure jumped to 45,222.

What will U.S. do?

So what is the U.S. plan? Do they look to Italy’s gun laws or ban semi-automatic weapons or require background checks? No.

Let’s arm the schools.

Trump, to his credit, did repeat the names of all 21 Texas victims during a moment of silence Friday. But then he and his fawning Texas congressman, Ted Cruz, laid out an idea right out of a bad sci-fi flick about alien invasion: Close every door but one in every school and assign an armed law enforcement officer at that door. No one gets in or out without his or her approval.

Yep. That’ll go over well with the local fire marshall. Instead of dying by gunfire, the kids can just die by fire.

Then I saw Texas governor Greg Abbott at the post-massacre press conference following his state’s fourth mass shooting since 2017 say, “It could’ve been worse.”

Meanwhile, a local Uvalde County politician mimed the Republican Party’s mantra of “This isn’t the time to talk about gun laws.” Instead he said, “It’s time for the whole country to come together.”

And do what? Sing “Kumbala”? That will do about as much good as thoughts and prayers which, for the record, my Christian right lunatics, have never brought a single gun victim back to life. Nor, I imagine, have they been much solace to the dead’s family.

Mental health

Instead, they talk about building mental health facilities like the Uvalde County Mental Health Clinic — right next to the Uvalde school. It’s a fallback for all U.S. gun nuts. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

Or, in Uvalde’s case, guns don’t kill kids. Kids kill kids.

Do they think the U.S. has cornered the world market on mental illness? Rome’s Lazio region alone has 20 psychiatric hospitals. No one around here is selling those patients guns.

Still, if the U.S. far right admits that mental illness is a cause for the United States’ high gun death rate, why do they make it so easy for said nut jobs to walk in and buy a gun as if it’s a hammer at Home Depot? 

NRA and far right

Here’s why: The National Rifle Association, despite reports of financial hardship last year, still spent a record $2 million in the second quarter of 2021 lobbying the Biden Administration and Congress on gun reform bills.

The far right also say if you outlaw guns, mass murderers can always find them on the black market. True. The U.S. has 400 million guns. That’s more than one per person and up from 300 million just five years ago. Fine. Let’s at least force them into a little research and networking without throwing the doors open to them from the approximately 2,000-5,000 gun shows in the U.S. every year.

And yes, tougher gun laws do lower gun violence. According to The New York Times, countries that passed harsher gun laws after mass shootings include the United Kingdom (1987 and 1996), Canada (1989), Australia (1996), Germany (202), New Zealand (2019) and Norway (2021). All saw the number of mass shootings plummet. Australia’s has gone from one in 18 months to one in 26 years.

Ban semi-automatics

The sanest law they could make is simply outlaw semi-automatic weapons. The gun activists fear the government wants to take their guns away. Not one president or knee-jerk liberal Democrat has ever said they will confiscate guns from homes. However, semi-automatic weapons aren’t designed for home protection. They’re not designed for hunting quail.

They’re designed for slaughtering people.

I am 66 years old. I have yet to hear of any American defending their home with a gun. There is some anecdotal evidence. But until they come up with 45,222 examples, the number killed by guns two years ago, they can go clean their gun barrel.

Besides, you can defend your home without a gun. On my wall in Denver I had a Gurkha knife used by the Nepalese guerilla unit the British military employed. The knife can’t massacre 21 people in a few minutes but it can cut a throat like a ripe grapefruit. It takes real courage to drive a knife into another man’s flesh. Any coward can pull a trigger.

Just look at the NRA.

America’s far right are people who care more about a fetus than a 10-year-old student, more about rising gas prices than the well-being of shelled Ukrainians. They wrap the U.S. flag and Constitution around their eyes so they don’t see the carnage around them. 

With every day that passes, with every mass shooting making headlines in Europe, I’m more grateful I live in Italy instead of the U.S. I don’t want to visit the U.S., let alone live. Italy is where common sense prevails over two-centuries-old Constitutions. Italy is where men don’t need a gun to be men. 

My plan

But I’m willing to give the U.S. some advice. Here is what should be required to buy a gun:

  • They must attend a counseling session.
  • Must wait at least 24 hours after the session to purchase a gun.
  • Told how death by gunshot occurs.
  • Described the pain of a shooting victim.
  • Warned of the risks involved in shooting guns.
  • Warned of the possible psychological problems after killing someone.
  • Walk past a gauntlet of protesters screaming at you for your decision.

You know, the same requirements many states require for an abortion.