Buying a gun in Mississippi is much less onerous than adopting a dog.

Things are rarely black and white

The Good Life

Gemma Good

This week I attended my first photography lecture. I thought I knew passion until I witnessed this woman speak about colour, specifically the light’s ability to enhance it. For our first assignment, the class was asked to photograph six images containing a colour of their choice. I automatically thought of the deep royal blue colour, which sits alongside white on our Cavan flag - the two colours said to represent empathy and peace. Already thoughts of the sea dominated my mind; the blue ripples dancing in the light. I thought of everything the ocean represents and begs of us; understanding, respect and knowledge. Diving in without this, you may as well be jumping into a black hole.

After one of our swimming experiences, my flatmates and I decided to ease the chill of the sea with honey, lemon and ginger tea. We were a group formed of Irish, American and Australian students. In these situations, we often talk about our home countries, which I always find intriguing as they are prime opportunities for learning. We got talking about gun laws in each country. I recently read an article on The New York Times about reducing gun deaths in America. I was intrigued by one section, which compared adopting a dog to buying a gun in the state of Mississippi. To adopt a dog, you must go through a seven-step process ensuring that you can provide a safe home for the animal. This process includes a 64-question application, contact with the landlord (if renting), a face-to-face meeting with the family, yard fencing and a security assessment, a sleepover visit with the pet and a $125 adoption fee. After successful completion of this procedure, you can adopt the pet.

Buying firearms is a two-step process; a 13-question background check and buying the gun. I explained the process in Ireland, where it’s necessary to obtain a gun licence. This process requires you to attend gun safety courses, install a proper cabinet to hold the gun, have a background check carried out and send off an application to the Gardaí with all relevant information, which may be approved or rejected.

As we talked about our countries, one girl talked in depth about how progressive Ireland has become in the past few years.

In theory, she is correct. A lot of things have changed in Ireland, which people in the past could only dream about. When I say the past, these things probably seemed impossible even in the early 2000s. Same-sex marriage has been made legal, abortion is now available, contraception is now available to everyone and divorce is also an option.

All of this is true, however I found myself not fully agreeing with everything she said. While I love my country, painting it as a shining example of what other countries should aspire to is not the way to go. I began to count the number of times “no offence” was said to the other international students, which does not affect the level of offence that a person will take. Eventually, I zoned out entirely. I couldn’t take it anymore.

I knew why this was, the shooting of Chief Inspector John Caldwell was playing on my mind. How can we speak about progressivism when a man lies fighting for his life, with the shooting being treated as “terrorist related” with the finger of suspicion pointed at the New IRA. A man has been shot while attending a football training session with his son. I can imagine the panic he felt while the bullets entered his body. A child has watched his dad being shot - a terrifying, life-changing experience that no young person should ever have to witness. Somebody fired shots from a gun, believed to be part of a dissident republican group. People attending the training session most likely feared for their own lives and the life of the man lying on the ground. The town of Omagh is shocked, as are people north and south of the border.

The talk of progression in Ireland on this day infuriated me. Passion for our country is a wonderful thing, however the misplacement of this is detrimental. We can sign a piece of paper and preach about progressivism but, until we implement it, we have nothing. The days of fighting for your country need to come to an end.

As people we are one, no matter beliefs we hold or where we come from. Living in today’s world begs understanding, respect and knowledge. Yes, Ireland has progressed and that is something to take pride in, however breaking the foundations causes everything to collapse.