Friday, 14 December 2012

Where there's death, there's a gun, time to change US gun law?

So yet another shooting in America.  This time a kindergarten in Newtown, Connecticut.  .  27 people believed to be dead including twenty children.  And as is customary in these shootings, the gunman of course then turned the gun on himself.


And so the discussions follow.  President Obama says that action needs to be taken, something needs to be done.  David Cameron and the Queen have sent their messages of shock and sadness.  The world is horrified, because the shooting of twenty innocent children is just so horrific as to be incomprehensible to the majority of normal thinking people. 


And then we ask the question again, the question that comes up every time another person in the US goes on the rampage with a gun, a phenomenon which seems to occur with frightening regularity.  And the question is when are the US going to do something about their gun laws? 


This isn’t about knee-jerk “let’s ban all guns” reactions.  This is about having tighter regulation on just who can go into a shop and buy a gun.  And the types of guns that people can go into a shop and buy.  Why, for instance, does any average individual need to own a semi-automatic rifle?  Why?


One of the arguments I’ve heard for not changing the laws is that if someone is determined enough to go on a killing spree, they will find the means to obtain a gun and do so whether they are illegal/regulated or not.  Well that may or may not be the case.  However equally it’s possible that if someone goes on a mass shooting spree, this is often because of a reaction to something that has caused the shooter to snap.  In which case, not having a gun to hand would certainly prevent someone from being able to pick up the gun and reactively go out killing people. 


We have tighter gun laws in this country, and even in Canada and Switzerland where the prevalence Of gun ownership is higher, and the gun crime rate is much lower. 


Any crime can be committed by someone determined to do so.  We don’t make the argument against making crimes illegal for any other circumstance, so why should guns be any different? 


For me the realisation became real when I read that in many schools in the US they have lockdown drills, where children are prepared on how to react to a mass shooting.  So how does it become acceptable that, instead of tightening the laws and procedures that make such mass shootings easier to carry out, a country instead teaches its children that mass shootings are the norm and something to be prepared for, like a fire alarm? 


I have lived in countries where terrorism was prevalent and as such, bomb drills were the norm.  However an individual going out on a mass killing spree with a gun is not and should never be prepared for as an anticipated event, and we need to seriously question the mentality of a society that thinks this way. 


The American constitution apparently gives the right for all Americans to bear arms.  But what about the rights of the innocent victims of this constitutional right?  Since when was the right to live safely, in an environment where gun drills didn’t exist and mass shootings weren’t a part of the educational process less important than every man and woman’s right to own a gun?


How many deaths will it take before the Americans begin to question whether the right to own a gun really is that important?  Will this shooting be remembered as the one that changes the laws of gun ownership or will we just look back at it in six months time when CBS is reporting on the latest gunning down of innocent people somewhere in the states? 


This morning twenty children got up and headed for school.  They will have been excitedly anticipating Christmas which is just ten days away.  Eagerly wondering about what Santa will bring them.  They are still young enough, you see, to believe in Santa, some of them as young as just four years old.  This morning twenty children had their whole lives ahead of them.  And tonight twenty sets of parents will not be tucking their children into bed.  Will not be anticipating putting the presents under the tree in ten days time which will already have been bought and wrapped.  And all because a man had the right to own a gun. 


As I write this, I am suddenly struck by the contrast with another story that has been in the news this week, where millions of people have sought to blame two Australian DJ’s for the suicide of a nurse after they made a prank call to the hospital where she was working with the Duchess of Cambridge.  They have been sent death threats, there have been calls for prank calls to be banned and even some suggestion that either the DJ’s or the Australian radio station they represented should be charged with either murder or at best corporate manslaughter.  And that was a hoax.  Badly thought out, but a hoax none the less. 


And yet a lunatic goes on the rampage with a gun and kills 27 innocent people and still millions of people out there defend their rights to own a gun.  How did it happen that people’s priorities became quite so skewed?

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