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Health and Safety American Style 

Being away from the U.S. for thirty years I forgot the degree to which American culture is concerned about public health and safety. It’s a good thing. I’m sure it has saved people from injury and no doubt death. Americans should be applauded for their work and action in this area. Admittedly, it can get a little over the top sometimes.

My New StoveAs we’ve been buying things for our new house, almost everything comes with numerous health and safety warnings. I bought a short extension cord the other day and it had three large warnings taped to it. I didn’t’ read them. However, the one that has made me smile the most is the new stove. The delivery guys wheeled it in on a big hand truck dolly and then almost forced it into its space between countertops (trust me, nothing is going to fall between the stove and the counters). Along with information on how to care for and operate the stove, were brackets to fasten the stove to the wall. There was a warning that the stove could tip over and injure a child. Of course, the notion is crazy. Basically the stove is a very heavy cube. Okay, it is a bit taller than it is wide, but if there is an earthquake that completely brings the house down, I’d bet the stove will still be standing upright. This stove is not going to tip over, on anyone. And yet, I wonder, did a stove at some time somewhere in America tip over on someone? We’re told coffee is hot because McDonald’s got sued. Well, we don’t have any kids so the brackets stayed in their plastic pouch. If Roberta tips the stove over on herself, she will have only herself to blame, that is after she explains to me how she did it!

There is a certain irony here that most Americans don't notice. American culture is very public health and safety aware and is an open weapon society. We always talk about “guns” and “gun control”, but the truth is you can buy assault weapons in America that armies in small countries envy. A good friend once told me that she was horrified by the amount of violence in films, but when I asked if she was also concerned about the number of weapons in her home, she looked baffled. You can read all about a six year old boy killing his four year old sister with daddy’s gun, but it simply doesn’t apply to your own life. You can hear about a two year old son reaching into his mommy’s purse while sitting in a shopping cart and shooting her dead in a store, but that will never happen to you.

Interestingly, my friend had no difficulty arguing that the first amendment to the U.S. constitution could and should be interpreted, resulting from time to time in the placing of legal restriction on freedom of speech, in this case violence in films. However, she would not tolerate any legal restrictions applied to the second amendment, which reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Nor would she discuss what the authors of the amendment might have meant by their use of the words “militia” and “people” - no doubt because she didn’t actually belong to a militia.

When I lived in Britain, every time someone loaded himself up with side arms and assault rifles and proceeded to go out and massacred children, British friends would ask me why Americans don’t do something about it. Britain had a massacre and the government said not again and the people said okay. Australia had a massacre and the government said not again and the people said okay. Neither country has had another massacre. Why not America? The best response I could come up with was always something like this: The owning of weapons and the ideology that protects the right to own weapons are more important to us than the lives of our children. Or, The death of our children, while tragic, is, nonetheless, more acceptable to us than placing any legal infringements on our right to own weapons. Or, The death of children is an unfortunate but acceptable loss in an open weapon society.

Life in America is complicated. But the next time you are open carrying and you walk into a café with a pistol on your hip and a rifle over your shoulder, for heaven’s sake don’t spill that hot coffee over your hand. It’s going to burn like hell and you’ll have to sue to hold someone accountable for you injury. And, I beg you, put that loaded gun on the kitchen table so you can secure your stove to the wall. Don’t want the damn thing falling on your kids. I mean what kind of irresponsible parent would let the stove tip over on their kids?

Copyright © 2015 Dale Rominger

Reader Comments (5)

"Why not America?" I've always assumed it was because your Constitution is so incredibly difficult to amend that the likelihood of repealing or significantly revising the Second Amendment is just about zero.

When we changed our laws on handguns we could do it by simple majorities in the Westminster Parliament: you can't do the same just by simple majorities in Congress. Presumably any statute that purported to do so would be struck down by the Supreme Court.

June 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Cranmer

Frank, you're certainly right about changing the constitution - it's rare and takes a long time. However, Congress could legislate to control guns and limit the violence without having to change the constitution. For that to happen we need a fairly radical change in the public's attitudes about weapons and for more courage from elected officials. I'm not optimistic.

June 25, 2015 | Registered CommenterDale Rominger


Would any kind of effective legislation to control guns survive a challenge in the Supreme Court? I'd have thought that limited controls might possibly not be held to contravene the Second Amendment but the kind of controls we have over here wouldn't stand much of a chance, particularly given the current makeup of the Court - though, that said, US constitutional law is emphatically not my starter for ten. There's also the problem (as you know) that even in the UK we have large numbers of illegally-held weapons floating around, so strict control on legal possession is only the first step in cleaning things up.

June 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Cranmer

Wonderful goods from you, man. I have consider your stuff prior to and you are simply too great. I really like what you've received right here, certainly like what you're stating and the way by which you say it. You make it entertaining and you continue to take care of to keep it smart. I can not wait to learn far more from you. This is really a great site.

July 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAbdul Alim

Abdul, thanks. You are very kind. I get regular visitors from around 30 countries, though most are from the US and UK. Just curious where you are now living. If you've been reading the blog, you are probably aware that I've moved back to the US from the UK and am now in Seattle, Washington. Anyway, thanks.

July 6, 2015 | Registered CommenterDale Rominger

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