Following the horrific killing of Garda Anthony Golden in Co. Louth last week, Ger Killoran reflects on Ireland’s attitude to gun crime in comparison to that of the world’s largest producer of firearms, the USA.
The image of a tricolour wrapped coffin floating on a sea of navy blue uniforms is one that will stick in the Irish memory for years to come.
The State funeral of Garda Anthony Golden attracted almost 4,000 uniformed Gardaí to honour the untimely death of their colleague. The small town of Blackrock, Co. Louth came to stand-still as a nation mourned this tragic loss. Answering what should have been a routine domestic violence call, the 38 year old was tragically shot dead by Aiden Crevan who took his own life following the grievous attack. Garda Golden’s death marks him as the 88th member of the force killed in the line of duty.
This event drives home the issue as to how innocent we are in relation to guns and firearms. There is no right to own firearms in Ireland. Guns enjoy very little visibility in Irish life outside of farming and shooting sports. The Garda Síochána are prided as being an unarmed force; but can this be deemed fair anymore given last Sunday’s events? Firearm possession increased 21% in 214 cases nationwide compared to this time last year. Are guns becoming such an issue in this country that even our police are no longer safe to go about their duty unarmed?
With this in mind, I am reminded of the recent mass shooting in Umpqua college, Oregan, which attracted global news coverage. Yet it occurs to me that I have never seen such outcry over the death of a police officer in the US. One aspect of American culture that is incomprehensible to people in Ireland is the attitude towards guns and gun control. The “Gun Violence Archive” boasts twelve pages devoted to injuries caused by guns to officers with a staggering 3,489 accounts as of October 17th 2015. Across the US, 50 officers were killed in the line of duty in 2014 alone.
We don’t understand how the simplistic essence of “the right to bear arms” can prevail among so many people in America. Talking to friends recently back from their J1’s, what struck me immediately was that “one of the highlights” of their holiday was having the opportunity to fire a gun in a local range. A feeling like no other, presumably they will never handle a weapon like that in their lifetime. It occurs to me that I have actually never even seen a real gun, when an American my age might have one in the family home, or even own one themselves. Can the novelty of such an experience, so exciting and unique for us, be so trivial for an average American?
Ireland’s reaction to Anthony Golden’s death is comforting. In comparison to our American counter-parts, the nation-wide stand-still has reinforced our position on guns and especially violence in this country. I am glad we live in a country where the response to Garda Golden’s death is not simply becoming another statistic. As we honour this late hero we are reminded that we have not become desensitised to this truly horrific level of crime.
Yet does this reminder need to come at the cost of a young father’s life, simply doing his job?
May this Guardian of the Peace find peace in heaven.