Friday, September 18, 2009

Out-of-touch Senators Support American Gun Industry

Yesterday's announcement that guns could be allowed onto Amtrak trains legally struck a discordant chord within me. I do take trains in the northeast and want them to be improved on as far as facilities and services are concerned. The gun ban incidentally makes riders like me feel safer. Allowing guns back on trains is a step in the wrong direction. After Amtrak, other train companies could follow.

Today's Editorial in the New York Times has the even more alarming news that:

despite pleas from Amtrak that it lacks the manpower, equipment and extra financing to effectively meet the deadline...it faces a shutdown if federal funds are lost.

Great. Who says this isn't getting to be a socialist country if guns are legally permitted on trains despite corporate and popular resistance? The article says that the administration's threat to allow guns on Amtrak is "a genuflection to the gun lobby" and "lunatic reasoning". I fully agree.

My side of this non-debate is almost silent -- where is the anti-gun voice? Why say "yes" to the gun lobby? Even kids know that guns are only meant to scare and kill. The ban on guns was "wisely adopted five years ago after the terrorist railroad atrocities in Madrid."[New York Times]

I am wondering why these Senators are caving to the gun lobby, and what financial kickbacks they receive to push through this legislation. (If so, they're corrupt -- "out-of-touch" is a politeness). It's demeaning and doesn't inspire international respect. America is good at showing an aggressive face to the world, yes, but not one that inspires respect and loyalty. It needs to work harder in that direction, and the new administration has a window of opportunity to do just that. Acquiescing to the demands of the gun lobby is contemptible to the very idea of humanity.

On a practical level, allowing guns will not be productive. On a philosophical level, it speaks to a well-funded, active and successful gun lobby army residing in Washington and their ability to corrupt. The need is huge for them all to get out a bit and get the bigger picture. Trains are good for moving large numbers of passengers around efficiently. While trains should be more socially respectable they should also be affordable to smaller budgets and busy, scheduled citizens. Trains should help cut greenhouse gases and overcrowded highway traffic. They should be desirable to drivers, non-drivers, and passengers of all ages and nationalities. It's fantastic and pleasant to take a ride in a wonderful European train that resembles a plane flight more than it does a grinding, clunking, old fume-y American railway carriage.

What all the American passenger train companies and Amtrak (the most visible one) needs to do is rise to higher international standards of safety and comfort. It needs to improve its trains (plugging holes where air conditioners drip water onto the seats, for example) and make the interiors have at least springs in the seats (also, for starters) and make rides smoother for passengers. The last thing it needs is to spend more money making trains worse -- more unfriendly and strict to its supporters.

Think of the tourists who would visit America and spend money. They must get a negative perception of safety in this country. Those gun lobbyists and "elected officials" should visit another country, forewarned that it is hugely unsafe because a lot of passengers are legally carrying guns (and hate tourists). These "elected officials" appear not remotely conscious of their blatant inhumanity and crazy, unwelcome actions. How are they achieving their mandate to improve America?

If the nation is so poorly led that it can't be bothered to do the right thing for train companies and for the populace of train-riders, then good luck with "going green" and "sustainability" and all that. Who cares?

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