There is no doubt that I was not born in the USA and certainly my British accent makes this quite clear. You might think, therefore, that I should not write about controversial subjects from the other side of the Atlantic. That, however, is not my opinion.
On many counts I do admire America, as a nation, as a place where sites tremendous beauty can co-exist with cities of great stature, as a people and as a world power. It is also the land where my wife, Lisa, was born and lived until we married four years ago.
There is, though, one major drawback to the American way of life – and that is the ‘right to bear arms’. This has led to workplaces, colleges, schools, places of entertainment, a church, restaurants, shopping malls and even streets becoming scenes of tragedy after tragedy.
In each case, there are striking similarities: the shooter has always been male, he almost always shot himself at the end of his murder spree, he almost certainly had a mental issue of one kind or another and he had access to one or more weapons.
Now, the USA is far from the only country that has suffered massacres of this type but the cold stark fact is that they happen there more frequently than anywhere else. To me, this is the result of poor gun control laws, perhaps weakly enforced, in a country where the constitution’s second amendment grants all citizens the right to bear arms.
The apologists for keeping guns, as typified by the National Rifle Association (NRA), are often heard to use the same phrase. And that is: “It is not guns that kill people, it is people that kill people”.
Well, actually, you need a gun and a person to pull the trigger. Take away the person and the gun is simply an object; take away the gun and the person, however mentally unstable, cannot shoot people.
Andy Parker, the father of TV journalist Alison Parker who was murdered on air in Virginia, has said while he believed people should have the right to own a gun but that much more needs to be done to restrict access for those with mental health problems.
“I’m not trying to take away guns,” he said. “There has to be a way to force politicians who are cowards and in the pockets of the NRA to make sensible laws so that crazy people can’t get guns. It can’t be that hard.”
To an extent, I can agree with that – or at least agree with the sentiments behind it. But, and it is a big BUT, how can this be achieved? In a country where the second amendment is treated as a God-given right, guns will continue to abound and, however strong gun controls are and however stringently they are enforced, mentally unstable people will still be able to lay their hands on weapons.
The NRA, and others, claim the need is for more guns to be in the hands of ‘good guys’ but, in reality, that argument over simplifies the entire issue. America has plenty of ‘good guys’, armed police, and despite this mass shootings continue.
The only real way to clamp down on gun-related murders is to eliminate the weapons. This can be demonstrated by looking at the figures of gun-related murders in various countries. The rates in this graph are given by 100,000 people, so varying population sizes do not interfere with comparisons. This graph was previously published in the Washington Post.
Even given these figures, nothing will be done as there is little will to pass new laws and no will at all to repeal the second amendment, especially when so many politicians in Congress receive funding from the NRA.
Sadly, it seems that the USA is destined to remain one of the most advanced nations in the world, while being one of the most backward in the handling of issues relating to the possession of guns.