A growing makeshift memorial outside the entrance to the Covenant Presbyterian Church, at the site of a school shooting in Nashville | JUSTIN RENFROE

If ever in my life I might have toyed with moving to the Unites States, one thing would have put me off for good: gun culture. I have visited the country countless times and always had a fantastic experience. There are many states I’d still love to visit but I have an underlying sense of unease about the way guns are bandied about by seemingly anyone who cares to have one.

Walmart, the largest retailer in the country, now only sells firearms to those of 21 and over and no longer sells AR-15s nor handguns. It also carries out its own background check on customers as Federal Law only requires a three-day waiting period and customers can still purchase a firearm even if approval never comes. This decision was likely a knee-jerk reaction to the mass shooting carried out, ironically, at a Walmart store in El Paso, when a gunman shot dead 23 shoppers.

But in truth is this enough? Would you find it acceptable for a disaffected 21-year-old – or anyone for that matter - with a potential grudge against the world to pop by their local Walmart to pick up a rifle with minimum fuss? How far does that background check go and is this just a bit of white washing to satisfy jumpy customers in the wake of El Paso?

There have been some truly grim news reports of late about very young children killing or wounding one another when loaded guns were left carelessly lying around homes by their families. It defies belief that any parent could be so irresponsible. The saddest part is that the killer toddlers will forever be reminded when older that they took the life (unwittingly) of a sibling or friend.

And of course, the main event is always the one sad nutter who decides to pitch up at a happy communal street function and pepper the crowds with bullets for whatever reason he or she sees fit. Scores of innocent bystanders die because one dysfunctional soul thinks he or she has the right to end the life of countless people, perhaps to settle a score against society. Why and how are these people allowed to have firearms?

School shootings seem to be two a penny with disaffected youths somehow managing to amass a small armoury of weapons in order to mete out revenge against teachers or fellow pupils. It always baffles me how so many of these kids live at home and the parents claim to have no idea about their warped intent until after the event. Some admittedly have shown signs of disaffection and mentally unstable behaviour for some years but why the heck is nothing done about it either by the parents or the medical services before things boil over in so violent and irreparable a manner?

So this week, another tragedy unfolded in Nashville when a 28-year-old trans, former female pupil – the media was keen to highlight the trans angle to trigger furious reactionary readers – went on a killing spree at her old school and shot dead three nine-year-olds and three adults. Wrong place and wrong time for them all but when is the insanity going to stop? Surely the good people of America must see how this national gun frenzy is getting worse by the day.

Mercifully, the young killer, Audrey Hale, was shot dead – what life would she have had following such a monstrous act? Let’s hope for her sake that she doesn’t encounter the innocent victims she so cruelly robbed of life, on her way to another potential world.


Changing the chip

I’m a creature of habit and although I enjoy trying new cafes and restaurants, I always favour those unpretentious joints where I feel happy and comfortable and where great food and service is guaranteed. Life’s too short to be disappointed with new boys on the block offering poor fare and patchy service.

So, this week, I was jolted out of my comfort zone when a friend suggested we try a café in Soller town that she liked. It always seems pretty crowded on the patio which has put me off, in truth, although it has a cheery feel. So, I was delighted to find the coffee good and the food really fresh and delicious. The owner was particularly friendly and warm and I promised that I would return for lunch. I told her that we all need to change the chip and she agreed that so many of us head for the places where we feel most secure and where no effort is required. New local businesses need our support and it’s important to share the love and give them all the benefit of the doubt. I will most definitely be returning to this new discovery and am grateful to my chum for the introduction. As they say, a change is as good as a rest.

Demonstrations against pension reform in France
Demonstrations against pension reform in France.

Paris is burning

My sister, a French citizen, lives in Paris and has been sending me daily images of the thousands of riot police with guns pounding the Capital’s streets. There are shocking pictures of burning monuments and huge fires, many created from the uncollected mountains of rat-infested rubbish on the streets, and masked demonstrators running riot. It is civil war, for want of a better term. Due to the chaos, she and colleagues have had to be evacuated from their offices to work at home and she has sent me scary videos of her journey through the city in broad daylight with guns and rioters at every turn.

The tragic demise of Paris – nay France – has been happening for years and every time I visit, I feel deep sadness and a sense of mourning for the once beautiful country I knew so well growing up. There are still fragrant rural pockets and affluent zones but most cities and small towns are a shadow of their former selves. We have distant French relatives and my mother’s family used to have a beautiful summer house in Le Touquet where they would spend holidays. Everyone in my family spoke fluent French and my Irish grandmother would write all her letters to her siblings in the language. I always marvelled at those beautiful images and loved my childhood and teen adventures in the country. Now it seems to be going to hell in a handcart and I feel for the people. I like to think that France will rise once more like the phoenix from the ashes, perhaps once Macron is forced to take his leave one day. Until then, we must watch from the side-lines, like a traumatised Greek chorus, and watch Paris burn.