Top gun

Look, I’m essentially a vistor here, and as such, I’m in no position to lecture America about its fixation with guns. If I was going to lecture, say, I might mention that firearms were used to commit 10,105 homicides in the USA in 2005, compared to around 46 in the UK. And that this is hardly surprising, given that the latest statistics show that 36.5% of US households happily admit that they have a gun in the building.

But like I say, I’m in no position to lecture the gun-toting citizens of the land of the free.

In a country where such a large proportion of the population have access to firearms, it’s hardly surprising that the police carry guns. And I’m fine with that. What I’m less fine about is the sight that befell me earlier today when I walked into the subway station to catch my train home.

A short distance from the ticket barriers, the NYPD’s finest were carrying out a routine check of the bags of random strangers – nothing wrong in that, given the July 7 bombings in London a couple of years ago. And all types of people were being checked, from big city lawyers to startled tourists, with no seeming bias towards a particular race or creed.

But standing a few yards infront of the inspection was one policeman – the kind of career cop who has been hitting the doughnuts a little hard recently, and as a result has beads of sweat streaming down his face after even the slightest exertion. Like breathing, for example.

I can only assume that Mayor Bloomberg himself had walked up to this bloke a few minutes earlier, and told him that Osama Bin Laden had just been spotted buying dewberry lotion in the Body Shop on the street above the cop’s head, and that they were expecting him to wander down to get on the V train within the next five minutes. It’s the only explanation for the fact that the officer’s hand was poised centimetres above his gun, his hand shaking and quivering, and his eyes wide with anticipation and fear. If anybody had accidentally popped a balloon within a 500 metre radius, we could have had a bloodbath akin to the final scene from ‘Heat’ on our hands.

After a suspicious look at my bag, our nervous hero decided I didn’t pose a threat to national security, and let me pass without popping a cap in my ass (as I believe they say round these parts). Hopefully he made it through the rest of rush hour without further incident, and he’s at home now watching ‘CSI: Miami’, and dreaming of what might have been.

The whole sorry incident wouldn’t have happened if Horatio Caine had been there, I can tell you.

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