The trouble with America is the Americans.
Maybe that’s not a very gracious way to talk about the citizens of my host nation. But Americans, or their gun culture, is what I see as the gun problem in the US.
It is the culture in the US that seems to tolerate school massacres – as well as the general background carnage that kills nearly 40,000 a year.
A culture that seems to be so pro-gun, and so prevalent that legislators – Republicans in particular - dare not enact any serious restrictions for fear of being voted out.
A culture that sees gun ownership as not just a necessity for the rather fantastic idea of fighting off a tyrannical government - rather than by voting them out. As not just a necessity to defend self and family, I guess because the thinking is law enforcement just isn’t up to it. But rather it is seen as a God given right..
Rob Wittman’s website for example says he is a “strong supporter of the Second Amendment” and he will “uphold our God given rights enshrined in the Constitution.”
Incidentally, there are people who say the Second Amendment is not unconditional. That the framers talking about a “well regulated militia” didn’t mean anyone can carry and use guns, of any kind, wherever and whenever they want.
Other Countries Show the Way
When it comes to reform, there seems to be a feeling of hopelessness and asking “what can we do about it?” Including Donnie Johnson in a recent column ( I was glad to see some of the Free Lance-Star readers were all over him about that letting him know there are things that can be done – and I note later he did concede he would support an assault weapons ban).
Other countries have shown there can be meaningful reforms.
In Australia after the Port Arthur Massacre in Tasmania, where a gunman with a semiautomatic shot 35 people, The National Firearms Agreement was passed (within 12 days). And there have been no mass shootings in public places since.
The Dunblane massacre in Scotland in 1996 where 16 primary school kids were killed prompted the Firearms (Amendment) Acts that imposed a buyback and made ownership of hand guns almost impossible. There have been no mass shootings involving handguns since (by far the majority of shootings in the US are with handguns).
In these, and other countries, there are strict licensing laws. You have to have a good reason to own a firearm, then apply to the police, who vet you to decide if they think you have any reason to be a danger. You also have to go through repeat vetting to renew your license.
Why is it such an impossibility for any laws like this to be passed In the US?
I know there is talk of this miracle that might take place in Congress. A bipartisan bill, with the backing of at least 10 Republicans. But I have to say it looks pretty anemic to me.
I would like to see politicians stand up to the gun lobby and others with vested interests – including resisting money from lobbyists - and impose what seems to me common sense measures. Like licenses with required vetting for every gun purchase. Re-imposing the assault weapons ban. And banning high capacity magazines. Restrictions that don’t have to be so sweeping as to totally prevent anyone ever having a gun – which is the paranoid myth that proponents use to resists any restriction.
For more ideas go to the website of Every Town for Gun Safety or The Brady Campaign.
And when we’re talking about what to do, it doesn’t need to be an either-or choice between guns or mental health measures. We need both. We need any measures that will help identify and restrict anyone who shows any hint of mental instability – which means knowing their background. As well as people being willing to give up being able to have weapons of war just so they can use them for sport.
The sheer number of guns is also a problem as research shows the more guns there are around, the greater the health hazard. It would take a long time to reduce the number but it’s time to make a start – especially hand guns, which, as noted, are virtually unobtainable in the UK.
Another argument of gun supporters that I find specious is that it’s the people that do the killing not just the gun.
But guns are such an efficient device for killing and wounding compared with a tire iron or a knife, that if the guy you just cut off in traffic is on a bit of a short fuse and just happens to have a gun . . . . . . . . . .
What’s standing in the way of the US being able to enact sensible laws to reduce the carnage like other countries is the gun culture. That guns are a necessity and it’s a God given right. And our kids being shredded and shot to pulp by some unhinged maniac with a weapon that’s meant for the battlefield is just the price we have to pay,