By Kelly McParland, erectile with permission of the author
Even as President Barack Obama delivered his address to the American public on Sunday, pleading for even a smidgen of extra control over the sale and use of guns, it was evident he wouldn’t get his wish.

Obama may have realized this. He had a weary air about him during the televised address, as if speaking directly to a brick wall, and not a sympathetic brick wall at that.

After outlining the measures he planned to take to increase the war on ISIL and protect against attacks in the U.S., he proposed:

Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?

We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino. I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures. But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies — no matter how effective they are — cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology. What we can do — and must do — is make it harder for them to kill.

But his expression suggested he knew it wouldn’t happen. Congress, controlled by Republicans, had already ensured that, when it voted Friday to block a measure that would have prevented weapon sales to people on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist. Every Senate Republican but one voted against the measure, which has come up every year since 2007 and been repeatedly rejected. Speaker Paul Ryan in the Republican-controlled House said: “I think it’s very important to remember people have due process rights in this country, and we can’t have some government official just arbitrarily put.

The Republicans are OK with the FBI list, and approve of having a no-fly list, but something about a terrorist gun list offends them. It’s not just Republicans who are the impediment to tougher gun laws, of course: Democrats have had plenty of opportunity over the years, and never made use of them, because Americans of all stripes still think they’re safer with guns than without them.

The New York Times ran a sobering article on Saturday, recording the sense of fear that has come to grip many Americans, who now believe that mass shootings could happen anywhere, any time, and for almost any reason. People in movie theatres worry about the guy who just left for popcorn, parents get a pang of doubt every time they drop off their kid at school, workers worry when a cranky colleague gets the axe, in case he heads straight home for his Glock.

The Times hates guns, and ran a front-page editorial – its first in 95 years – titled End the Gun Epidemic in America. “Politicians abet would-be killers by creating gun markets for them, and voters allow those politicians to keep their jobs,” it noted.

True enough, but in the U.S. today there is a sense that it’s already too late to restrict access to firearms. There are just too many guns in too many hands to make any effective effort to control them. Even if a law was put in place now, those guns would still exist, millions of them, locked away in personal arsenals all over the country.

Trying to round them up would be futile – we’re talking about a country that can’t even agree to block sales to the people already on a list of suspected terrorists. Good luck insisting teachers, pastors, Girl Guide leaders and other upstanding citizens have to hand in their weapons, when they now every religious zealot, conspiracy theorist and free-range crazy in the country will hold onto theirs. Even in Canada the gun registry sparked enough opposition to lead to its demise; in the U.S. the resistance would be many times greater.

This is the logic of people like Donald Trump, and shows how perverse the debate has become.

It seems more likely the country will go in the opposite direction. With each mass shooting the logic of personal weaponry gains credence: if so many dangerous people are armed, why should innocent people go defenceless? They may despise the notion that individuals need a weapon to feel safe in a democratic country – it may offend their vision of what the U.S. is all about – but each time gunshots interrupt a school hallway or a public health facility like the one in San Bernardino, the logic of having a defensive weapon grows. If it happened to you, at least you could do something besides hide.

This is the logic of people like Donald Trump, and the number of Americans who want to be likened to Donald Trump is still pretty low, despite his current standing in political polls. It shows how perverse the debate has become:

The more people hate and fear guns, the more they feel the need to have one.

It’s the ultimate aspiration of the NRA, to turn the entire country into the Wild West. Obama might have realized that as he delivered his plea on Sunday. No wonder he looked weary.



By Kelly McParland, symptoms with the consent of the author

Anyone who has experience in dealing with government regulations – which must include almost every adult Canadian – is familiar with the mindlessness that often afflicts the blinkered world of public administration.

Kids enjoying a game of road hockey become a safety issue that can’t be tolerated; a sheet of open pond must be closed to skaters for fear of liability issues; a pet that wanders into the neighbour’s yard against local bylaws exposes its owner to a hefty fine.

To pretend the EU decision is merely an administrative quirk is to trivialize the spiteful nature of its impact.

These are relatively minor irritants, but reflect an administrative denseness that on a larger scale becomes altogether insidious. One rule begets another, which leads to a third, which ends with the absurd, the unfair or the vindictive.

This is what underlies Israel’s justifiable anger at a European Union ruling that goods produced in areas gained by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 must be labeled to indicate they originate in Israeli settlements. The ruling may not equate to the use of yellow stars to identify Jews in Nazi Germany as some Israeli politicians have claimed, but it is unquestionably discriminatory and meant to have a punitive impact on Israel. There are no health, safety or other legitimate reasons to justify separate labeling, which can only encourage politically-motivated efforts to mount boycotts of Israeli products and Israel itself.

The EU argues that it is only following regulations. The notice of the ruling reads: “The European Union, in line with international law, does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, namely the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory, irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law.” Since a growing number of countries recognize “Palestine” as an independent state, it argues, separate labelling regulations must apply.

To pretend the decision is merely an administrative quirk is to trivialize the spiteful nature of its impact. It is motivated not by valid trade concerns but by European impatience at the lack of progress in the peace process, and the growing influence of Muslim populations in Europe that are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and hostile to Israel. Many countries, including Israel’s allies, share that frustration, but the EU edict holds up only one side to blame. It demonstrates greater concern for Gaza, which is governed by a recognized terrorist organization and has repeatedly launched violent cross-border attacks on Israeli civilians, than for the innocent victims of that aggression. Europe, noted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “is labelling the side that is being attacked by terrorism.”

It also offers an enormous boost to movements – sometimes rooted in blatant anti-semitism or trendy academic politics – that promote boycotts of Israeli goods, services, businesses and even cultural events. Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, hailed the EU directive as “a significant move towards a total boycott of Israeli settlements.” Products from the identified areas “should not only be labelled, but should be banned.”

Though goods from the three identified areas amount to only a small fraction of Israeli trade with the EU, it still impacts some US$130 million in goods and tens of thousands of jobs, many of them held by Palestinian workers who earn substantially more than they could otherwise expect. Goods identified under the ruling – including fresh fruits, vegetables, cosmetics, wine, honey, olive oil, eggs, poultry and organic products – may no longer benefit from tariff protections accorded other Israeli trade items. The EU’s action could also set a precedent, encouraging efforts to broaden the campaign against Israel to include foreign companies that have operations in the disputed areas, or spur divestment crusades against international firms with ties to Israel.

The Conservative government of Stephen Harper would almost certainly have recognized the injustice of the EU directive and condemned its one-sided and punitive nature.

The new government of Justin Trudeau has pledged to maintain Canada’s ongoing support for Israel’s right to survive, free of one-sided international offensives. And if it intends to be true to that pledge, Trudeau should condemn the ruling from Brussels and make clear that Canada has no intention of considering or adopting similarly biased and discriminatory measures!


Kelly McParland is a columnist, editor, blogger and serial pundit with the “National Post” newspaper, and author of “The Lives of Conn Smythe”, the first full biography of the founder of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team

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