Long ago, shortly after my arrival at Gamone, while looking out from my bathroom window, I noticed a mangy fox about fifty meters down the hill. I grabbed my camera and managed to get a picture of the animal before it disappeared into the woods. To be wandering around in daylight so close to my house, the fox was probably sick. When I showed the photo to people in a café at Pont-en-Royans, the barman scolded me mildly: "William, as a rural property-owner, you should have grabbed your rifle, not your camera, and shot that sick animal." When I explained that I didn't own a rifle, the people in the café looked at me in disdain, as if I were a naive outsider (which I was), unaccustomed to French country traditions.
In fact, I do own a couple of weapons (not requiring licenses), but there's no way in the world that I could use them to down a fox at a distance of fifty meters. As a child in Australia, I saw my father using a rifle, on countless occasions, to kill rabbits. My uncles, too, owned shotguns enabling them to go duck-shooting in the nearby swamp. So, I found it quite natural, and still do, that a rural house should contain various firearms.
From time to time, I've thought about the idea of carrying out some kind of bush excursion in Australia, and it occurred to me that it wouldn't be a bad idea to carry a rifle in the vehicle. Last year, when I made preliminary enquiries about this idea, I was surprised to learn that Australia's new (?) laws concerning firearms are extraordinarily draconian. It is simply out of the question for an ordinary citizen to keep any kind of weapon in his home. To my mind, this is excellent legislation... although I fail to understand how landowners now deal with rabbits and dingoes.
Talking about things I fail to understood, there's the US myth about the right of citizens to defend themselves with personal firearms. But that's just one of many things I don't understand about Americans. Even after the tragedy that has just taken place in Virginia, President Bush refrains from even hinting that their legislation might be modified in order to keep guns out of the hands of psychopaths.
In a country where many leading figures have been gunned down, various observers have evoked the possibility that a highly unpopular president such as Bush might be a likely target for US gunmen. Somebody said recently that the main reason why Bush is relatively safe from such a happening is that his assassination would result in the presidency being handed over to Dick Cheney. And it goes without saying that no self-respecting US gunman in his right mind would wish to bring about such a nightmarish situation!