The Stockholm Syndrome
I was thinking of Patty Hearst this past week. Many will not remember her, but I do. Patty Hearst is the grand daughter of William Randolph Hearst, a wealthy 19th Century media mogul and philanthropist. In 1974, at the age of 19, she was kidnapped by a left-wing terrorist group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army. A few months later, she was part of the gang, taking part with them in robbery and extortion and who knows what else. There is a famous picture of her holding a rifle during a bank robbery.
Hearst was captured and jailed for 35 years but served less than two and was eventually pardoned, because it was believed that she suffered from a condition known as the Stockholm Syndrome. Loosely speaking, this results in trust or affection being transferred to perpetrators, by a victim who has been captured or harmed. They become immune to their captors, sometimes joining them and sometimes just not caring about the harm they are doing.
So, why am I thinking of Patty Hearst now? It is because I am beginning to wonder if, in this day and age, many, if not most of us, are suffering from some form of the Stockholm Syndrome, when is comes to gun violence in the United States and yes, in Canada as well.
In this past week alone, 32 people were massacred in Dayton Ohio and El Paso Texas. Scores more were injured in both places. It took only 32 seconds to kill the nine people in Dayton. In Toronto, over the August long-weekend, there were 14 separate shooting incidents in which 17 people were injured. In the recent past, in Canada, we have lived through a number of mass shootings, in Atlantic Canada, on Parliament Hill and just last year on the Danforth in Toronto.
Yet, we just don’t seem to get it. Have we become immune to all of this? Are we effectively participants in what is going on beneath our noses, because we refuse to do anything about it? Do we simply not care any more? Surely the time has come, in fact is well overdue, to get serious about gun control.
In the United States, it’s all about the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. It doesn’t seem to matter that when it was enacted, there were no weapons more serious than a musket ball and the actual purpose of the legislation was to protect the States against an aggressive Federal Government. There was no intent to have people walking the streets armed like cowboys, especially with weapons of mass destruction.
But the gun lobby in the United States, controlled by the National Rifle Association (NRA) is far too powerful. They oppose almost all legislation related to gun control. They intimidate politicians and lawmakers through threats and huge financial support. They have a stranglehold on Congress and the White House where, in spite of the obvious crisis, politicians are too cowardly and too pistol-whipped, to stand up to them.
In Canada, the situation is somewhat different, but still dangerous. It is more difficult to obtain firearms for illegal purposes, but it is still possible. Handguns are still legal here, but with very few exceptions, they should be banned or at least, much more strictly controlled than they currently are. One need only look at Toronto in the last ten days, to figure that out.
To be clear, I am not advocating a total ban on firearms, especially hunting rifles. At this point, as my friend Sally would say, I should come clean, and declare that I once owned part of a gun company that manufactured 22 calibre rifles. Most hunters are very cautious with their firearms. They are usually well trained in safety measures and they know how, when and where to use their weapons Most of them are also conservationists. Legitimate hunters are not the problem.
However, there is simply no excuse for weapons of mass destruction such as assault rifles, to be in the hands of anyone other than trained military and security personnel. There is no reason why everyone who purchases a weapon should not have it registered. I have to register my car. Why shouldn’t I have to register my rifle? As well, anyone, who wants a weapon, should be required to undergo a background check, to be sure there in no known reason that they should not be allowed anywhere near a gun. Finally, anyone who shares their weapon with another, should be jailed.
Those who advocate for little or no gun control, are quick to point out that guns don’t kill. People kill, they say. Technically they are right of course, because someone has to pull the trigger. What one needs to remember however, is that we are increasingly in a world of division and hate and we know that hate speech both in the United States and in Canada, invokes violence. When guns are readily available, it is much easier to kill.
I am reminded of a speech made a few weeks ago on Canada Day, by our Federal Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen, who suggested that Liberal opponents are racist Islamophobes who dance with White Supremacists. Surely, anyone on all sides of the political spectrum, can view that as nothing less than hate-speech. What an example for a Minister of the Crown to set!
This, however, appears to be the world we live in, and as long as we do, we can only expect the extraordinary events of violence and atrocities we see today, to increase. It is all the more reason why we have to wake up, stop getting used to it, shrug off our indifference and yell “STOP!” Otherwise, it must be the Stockholm Syndrome because surely, this is not who we are.
One way to start that ball rolling, is to insist on tough and enforceable gun-control laws. As long as we tolerate a culture of hate, violence and intolerance, there will be more and more people, who will feel enabled and will want to kill. Even under these circumstances, fewer people will die, if most weapons and especially hand guns and assault weapons, are taken off the street.
It’s as simple as that.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!