Late on a Saturday night last year, I was doing my usual routine of reading a few chapters of my book before I go to bed. I prefer to do this than look at my phone, as I don’t want to become addicted to the thing.
Once I had finished the few chapters I wanted to get through, I put my book down, looked towards and grabbed it.
So much for sticking to good habits!
I don’t know what compelled me to grab it, perhaps it was an innate desire to check the damn thing. When I took a look at my phone, what I saw did not surprise in the manner that it should.
The notification on my phone told me that there had been a mass shooting in El Paso in America. The only thing I could think of at that moment was, “not another one!”
The news was hardly surprising which says a lot about how commonplace these kinds of shootings have become. We have become desensitised to headlines along these lines.
What made matters worse was that when I woke up, news of another shooting appeared on my phone. I just shook my head in disbelief at the all too familiar headlines.
The number of shootings in America has become too long and too bloody to believe. I remember being a child reading about the Columbine massacre and scarcely believing what happened.
As I was growing up in England, the idea of something similar taking place was non-existent. Thinking that such an event had taken place in America was unbelievable in its own right.
Fast forward to today and the news barely registers. It’s just what happens in America these days. When the situation has got this bad, with frequent losses of life no longer eliciting the pangs of shock they should, it’s clear something is broken.
America has an obsession with guns, that much is clear. But, it is time the obsession was brought to an end for the good of the country.
More Guns, More Problems
America has a gun problem, there is no getting away from this. The numbers are stark. This year alone, 246 people have been killed in America as a result of mass shootings.
The fact that there is a Wikipedia page detailing all the mass shootings in the country tells you all you need to know about how the situation has got out of hand.
As an outsider, I find the whole situation bizarre. The logical thing would be to restrict access to guns and make it harder for people to buy them. The more guns there are in society, the higher the likelihood of shootings taking place.
It's not rocket science!
An alternative way to look at this is in regards to nuclear weapons. It’s not hard to argue that the higher the circulation of nuclear weapons, the more chance they have of falling into the hands of dangerous people.
That is why there are a number of non-proliferation treaties prohibiting the testing of such weapons. Countries that possess these weapons are also encouraged to not actively increase their arsenal, rather they are encouraged to decommission it. The world is in agreement that more nuclear weapons are not a good idea.
The fewer nuclear weapons we have in the world, the less likely it is that they will fall into the hands of ‘bad actors.’ The same logic should apply to gun ownership, but for some reason, this doesn’t happen in America.
As someone that hasn’t grown up in the country, I can’t say for sure why this is. Although, there does seem to be a large swathe of the population that has an unhealthy obsession with guns.
There is a reason they are hard to get in the UK. There is a huge problem with knife crime here, especially in London. Imagine the chaos, if guns were as widely available as guns are. It’s not worth thinking about!
Guns would not make the streets of the UK safer, they would almost certainly make them much more dangerous. It’s much easier to kill people with guns than knives, and you can do a lot more damage with one than you can a knife.
To me, it seems like certain elements of American society have a quasi-religious devotion to firearms and the belief that widespread ownership benefits society. The numbers just do not back this up.
The graph here is conclusive. Since the start of the 21st century, the deaths from mass shootings in America has only gone one way, upwards. Indeed, in the last few years, it has become significantly worse. Yet nothing is done about it.
The Las Vegas shooting in 2017 was a horrific crime that killed 59 people. It was the deadliest mass shooting by an individual in American history. The shooting in 2012 at Sandy Hook saw 27 people killed, including 20 children.
Undoubtedly, these are horrific events. Yet, neither of them was a catalyst for change. Yes, the use of bump stocks were outlawed following the Las Vegas shooting, but it is a drop in the ocean in relation to the greater issue of widespread gun ownership.
A gun only has one purpose, to kill. It is an instrument of death, more guns just make these type of shootings more likely. The argument is that gun-free areas make these places more likely to be targeted by would-be shooters.
This is to miss the point spectacularly. We could argue that every country should own nuclear weapons to deter the threat of countries attacking them, but what happens if one country suddenly decides to go rogue?
Widespread gun ownership does nothing to stop people who are more than willing to die to further their goals of killing scores of people.
There is a scene in The Dark Knight, which sums up this situation perfectly…
- Alfred: A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.
- Bruce Wayne: Then why steal them?
- Alfred: Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
- Bruce Wayne: The bandit in Burma, did you catch him?
- Alfred: Yes.
- Bruce Wayne: How?
- Alfred: We burned the forest down.
As Alfred states, some people just want to watch the world burn. Making guns as easy to purchase as your groceries only encourages these people to act on their beliefs.
To stop these crimes you have to burn the forest down and to do that, you need to legislate and make it harder to own a gun.
It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way
In 2014 I spent a year living in Christchurch, New Zealand. I worked as part of the rebuild programme which was getting the city back on its feet after the devastating earthquakes in 2011.
While it wasn’t the easiest of places to live, as the city was being built from the ground up, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. If I had the chance, I would go back in a heartbeat.
So when I woke up one morning in March to hear the news that a shooter had killed 51 people at mosques across the city, I could scarcely believe what I was reading.
Here was somewhere I called home, a city that was tolerant, peaceful and in no way violent, in the middle of a horrendous episode of violence. It didn’t seem real.
This was an awful, cowardly attack, but the response to it was anything but. Jacinda Arden, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, dealt with the situation with dignity and gravitas and declared that gun laws would be changing.
There was no hesitation, no stepping on eggshells to appease various lobby groups, she quickly and confidently addressed the situation. A new law was introduced which banned the ownership of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns for the majority of the populace.
Three horrible incidents and three swift responses to legislate against them ever happening again. Why does this not happen in America? Why are these events allowed to continue year after year?
I believe a large part of this is done to the gun lobby, particularly the National Rifle Association. (NRA) The invocation of the Second Amendment is consistently used to deter any attempt to legislate against these events happening again.
But this amendment was ratified in 1791! Over 200 years ago! The world and America is a completely different place to what it was back then. In 1791, owning a gun would have been much more of a necessity than it is today.
When does enough become enough? How many people have to die before people see common sense and regulate the gun industry?
What use does the average citizen have for a semi-automatic rifle? It’s madness! It is not a natural right to own a gun, we are not born with guns in our hands, they are placed into American hands by laws that are outdated.
Legislation is the only way this crisis can be averted. Stricter controls are needed to stop guns from getting into the hands of people who desire to commit untold misery upon society.
Until this happens, I fear I will be receiving more notifications about similar events.