I am delighted to see the political activism of some teenagers in the United States as they protest about gun violence. The event that fired them up is incredibly sad and will haunt many of these young people for life, as they see the images of carnage in their nightmares.
I expect like me, many Australians hear of mass shootings in the US with sadness and some dismay. Many of us puzzle over the apparent US obsession with guns and wonder why. Why is there such an obssession with guns? Why hasn’t any positive action been taken to address the situation? Why doesn’t life matter more?
The definition of a mass shooting by the FBI is a public shooting of three or more people. There has been a rapid increase in these from 2011. As at February 18, there had been 46 mass shooting events recorded in the United States with a total of 90 lives lost and more than 160 people injured.
Nearly half of all guns owned by civilians world-wide are owned by Americans.
‘People kill people, not guns’, ‘If they can’t get a gun they’ll find something else’, and ‘It’s my right as an American to carry a gun’ are just some of the sentiments often expressed. They quote the Second Amendment. The same phrases are parroted after each shooting. ‘More guns will help’, ‘If students could bring guns to school’…
I’ve heard of toddlers picking up a pistol and killing Grandpa or Mum or their little sister or brother. Civilians walk around with a gun on their hip. Guns for toddlers in pale pink and blue are marketed to a gun obsessed culture. In many jurisdictions people can legally carry concealed weapons, so it is hardly surprising that the police are so jumpy they shoot innocent unarmed people, including the Australian woman Justine Damond who was shot dead in her pyjamas after calling 911 for assistance.
I have American friends who trot out all the old arguments against gun control after every shooting. However, there are more Americans who support some level of gun control than those who oppose any control at all. Unsurprisingly, more Democrats are in favour of gun control than Republicans.
The connection between gun manufacturers and the failure of government in the US to do anything seems obvious. The National Rifle Association, which is funded by gun manufacturers then funds the political campaigns of politicians, most generously but not exclusively on the Republican side, some Senators in excess of a $1 million each, the highest just under $7 million.
I have heard that all would be fixed if there were armed guards, but then I’ve also heard that teachers should be armed and following the most recent shooting, there has been a call for students to be allowed to take weapons to school. This seems utter madness to me.
How can a country justify such relaxed gun laws that almost anyone can buy a gun with no checks at all? What citizen needs an assault rifle, they are designed to kill humans in rapid fire bursts. They are unsuitable for hunting as the meat and hide would be too damaged to have any use. Why does a citizen need a silencer? If someone has to keep their gun use secret chances are they are up to no good.
The message is circulated that if the shooter was denied a gun they would have used something else, a knife or maybe a bomb or car. Possibly, but in Las Vegas, Stephen Paddock killed 59 and wounded 422 from a vantage point above the crowds below.
I can’t see a knife wielding killer achieving numbers even a tenth of that before being disarmed, nor a nutter driving a car as the car itself would become too damaged and other people would intervene. Even with a hunting rifle or pistol the number shot before the shooter was shot themselves or disarmed is unlikely to ever reach those levels.
Australia’s Martin Bryant’s mass killing on April 28, 1996 evidently was inspired by the Dunblane massacre in Scotland, which occurred March 13, 1996.
Is it that the last school shooting in the US inspires the next one and they will never cease unless the US is disarmed, which is unlikely to ever occur. Maybe though they can get assault rifles banned, but even that so obvious a step to reduce carnage seems a step beyond them.
I am so glad guns aren’t so prevalent in Australia and we have tough laws around ownership and storage. It only took one mass shooting to yield affirmative action.