once more reels in shock at the needless murder of students at
the Red Lake High School, on a Native American reservation in the
northern state of Minnesota, the question of gun control will almost
certainly be raised, and dismissed, once again.
To someone living in the United Kingdom, where hand guns are illegal
and strict firearm controls are largely accepted without question,
it is hard to understand why America is so in love with the weapon
that destroys the lives of thousands of people every year. This
is never more perplexing than right after yet another high school
shooting, of which America seems to hold an ominous world record.
While gun crime is on the rise in the UK, firearms incidents are
actually relatively small in number. Certainly they are statistically
dwarfed when compared to similar incidents recorded in the United
States where the 'right to bear arms' is woven into the fabric
of the country's constitution. The founding fathers wrote in the
second amendment, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary
to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep
and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
It would be very easy to become embroiled in an argument of statistics,
quoting numbers and percentages to prove a point that ultimately
could then be disproved by simply using another set of equally
exploitable figures. Ultimately though the argument fades and the
status quo continues, until that is, the next high school shooting.
Strange as it might seem to some, I have managed to get this far
in life without the need of a firearm to protect myself, my freedoms
or 'the state'. My freedoms
have, of course, been threatened and in some cases actually diminished,
but those kind of threats would not be have been
remedied with a violent exchange of fire. In addition, it's true
to say that on occasions when angry I've felt like shooting the
odd person here and there. But ultimately those would-be bullets
turn into a strongly worded letters or emails that result in no
loss of life.
Having said this, I will admit that on a few occasions while visiting
America, I have enjoyed firing a gun. They make a bloody
great big bang, which is curiously appealing to many males in the
same way that fast cars and large chested ladies are. However,
despite my own experiences involving guns, I have never felt the
desire or seen the need to actually own one.
Perhaps coming from this British perspective doesn't allow me
to understand the needs and benefits of gun ownership in
a modern society. I do, however, understand that rifles serve a
valid practical use in the farming and rural community. Hunting
might not be my cup-of-tea, but I also understand the gun owning
rights of people who enjoy that sport. But try as I may, I simply
can see no real practical or social benefit in the ownership of
a hand gun. As far as I see it a hand gun is simply a weapon, and
should therefore come under far greater controls than a hunting
rifle or shotgun.
A while back a female friend of mine in Texas proposed buying
a small hand gun for, as she put it, "protection." I
was stunned as she didn't seem to me to be the kind of person who
would want to become a gun wielding American. Her argument was
that violent crime was rife and therefore she wanted to have a
small handgun to confront to anyone who might approach her violently.
I argued that while her point about the increasing threat of violent
crime was indeed valid, simply arming herself would be of little,
if any, practical help. She claimed that a mugger might "think
twice" if a gun were pointed back at them. However, I pointed
out that most victims of violent crimes have no time or ability
to react in the situation as they are never usually in a mental
place where they would have the quick thinking agility to react.
Mostly they are just shocked, and seconds later, a statistic. Had
she purchased a gun for protection, that weapon would now be in
the hands of the mugger as they ran off with her bag, and at that
point America would now have one more illegal murder weapon on
But for argument's sake, let's assume that she did manage to draw
her weapon, release the safety, and point it at the mugger. Now
what? If the mugger is armed how often do you suppose they pulled
the trigger? Should she be quick thinking enough to actually draw
and arm her weapon, far from the violence being averted the situation
is now far worse, with the very real possibility of a gun fight
on the street, complete with all the perils that brings. Playing
that out and assuming others might also carrying guns, we've suddenly
got ourselves something that resembles the days of the wild west
as people dive behind cars and other objects to simply reload before
continuing to shoot at those they perceive as a threat!
Of course, people opposed to gun control will, despite the recent
deaths in another American high school, argue that their right
to bear arms is protected by the constitution. But in examining
that part of America's hallowed constitution, isn't it clear to
see that the right to bear arms comes with two very clear conditions?
The keeping of a "well regulated Militia" for "the
security of a free State."
Sadly though, no amount of debate or reasoned arguing will bring
back those killed at the Red Lake High School, or indeed those
who will die from a gun shot wound in America today, or for that
matter, any day.