The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, just over a month ago, leave us shaking our heads.
Why can't Americans recognise the firearm problem they have and do something about it?
Instead, lobby groups have called for more firearms, even the arming of teachers. Can you picture the teacher in front of your child's class with a pistol on their hip? It might help with discipline, but . . .
Americans claim it's their democratic right to bear arms. It's enshrined in their constitution, although its intention was so that citizens could protect themselves from a tyrannous government, rather than each other.
Successive United States governments have seemed unable or unwilling to tackle the powerful lobby groups head on.
Maybe some have even been bought off with political funding.
In New Zealand, we think about how, as a nation, Americans just don't seem to get it, about how they put their children and youth at such risk of death or serious injury. There seems to be a very strange logic at work here.
Unfortunately, we are just as bad. We argue the same way about our right to drink, supply and consume alcohol in the manner we do.
Our Government seems unable to stand up to the alcohol lobby groups.
I can't say whether it has been bought off, but there is significant money involved in this industry and its sponsorships.
We might not have AK47s for sale, but we do, for example, have alcopops, the assault rifle of the alcohol world.
Just as young Americans don't need access to weapons designed for use in war to protect themselves from their peers or for hunting deer, so our youngsters don't need the sort of access to the quantities of alcohol that are available to them.
Both are potentially lethal in the wrong hands.
At least New Zealand kids don't set out to shoot their friends or others. They just get drunk, pile their friends into the car and kill them anyway, or other people who get in the path of our loaded youths.
With democratic rights and freedoms comes a responsibility to look after our fellow citizens, particularly the more vulnerable, not to make as much money from them in whatever way possible at whatever cost.
The tobacco companies still don't get this principle.
Watered-down legislation, several years in the making, is in hand to address these issues.
Will it? I suspect not. It will be a sop. The alcohol industry will feel only a mere pinprick and our youngsters and families will continue to pay the price. As a nation, we just don't seem to get it.
© Ian Munro 2012. All rights reserved.
- The Timaru Herald