I don’t often do guest posts here, but there are times when watching America from Europe one realises just how strange it is. I had that sensation during the US health care debate when proposals that European Christian Democrats would have considered timid were denounced as ‘socialist’. And I had it again this week when I discovered that this cartoon – drawn in the wake of the Newtown shootings by my colleague Jeff Yang and his son Hudson – was regarded in the US as divisive. I’m not sure if Jeff intended the nod to Tom Paine in the title, but Paine would have known in a heartbeat that the private “right to bear arms” had a meaning only as part of a public responsibility. Jeff explains the history below the fold: click on it to enlarge.


Jeff Yang writes:

The grotesque act of mass murder that left 20 kids and 6 adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was a shocking reminder of how deeply embedded guns are in American society. We have the most guns per capita of any nation in the world — 88.8, almost double that of the runner-up, the violence-wracked former Eastern European state, Serbia.

But it’s not just the ready availability of guns in our culture that has led to our epidemic of gun violence: It’s ‘gun culture’ — America’s unique, obsessive celebration of firearms as central to our freedoms and our very way of life.

A New York Times article about the deep roots of gun culture in Newtown exposed the strange and eerie underbelly of the All-American town, which just happens to be the headquarters of the National Shooting Sports Foundation — the gun industry’s trade and advocacy group.

Unsurprisingly, it’s also home to an avid community of gun enthusiasts, who’ve filled Newtown’s many shooting clubs to waiting-list capacity and who regularly set up illicit target ranges in the town outskirts, making gunfire and explosions a constant soundtrack in the bucolic woods. Even in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting — which was committed with handguns and an assault rifle legally owned by the killer’s mother, his first victim — the residents have resisted regulating weapons. As one Newtowner put it to the Times: “Teach a kid to hunt, and you’ll never have to hunt your kids.” Welcome to Panem — er, to America!

All of this is extremely hard to explain to a nine-year-old, especially one who, like most young boys, is fascinated with guns. But this weekend, we had a very long discussion, and at the end of it, Hudson wanted to do something.

What we did was this comic. We hope you enjoy it.

The ‘Cars & Guns & Commonsense’ cartoon strip is published here under a Creative Commons Licence: some rights reserved.