At the time of writing it is about a week after some lunatic strolled into an American school and started shooting up the place. 20 first grade children and 7 women perished.
The NRA have come out with a bold defence of the right of every American to bear arms, citing video games and graphic films as the real source of the problem.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but video games and films never killed anyone. But I digress.
What is sickening at the moment is the pro gun lobby comments on the Internet, particularly Twitter. Indeed there is a call for schools to be more heavily armed. People are seriously thinking that the antidote to guns is more guns, closer to children. I think we need a quick reminder of what an ‘arms race’ is, before there are tanks deployed outside nurseries and apache gunships hovering over playgrounds.
One of the main issues is that the constitutional right to bear arms effectively let the cat out of the box. And it is now virtually impossible to get it back in. The guns are out there, in large numbers, and freely available. So it appears even a (massively unlikely) change to the constitution banning private handguns might only result in the compliant, law abiding types handing back their weapons.
Even restricting the types of guns available seems to make little difference. You can do an awful lot of damage with a six shooter and a little practice. We would be saying “well, 10 people died, but it would have been a lot worse if the gunman had an Uzi”. It’s little comfort. In fact, it’s no comfort.
Compare to most of Western Europe. Guns are highly restricted for recreational use, they must be licensed for a qualifying purpose (eg for vermin control) and kept in a locked cabinet, or kept at a licensed gun club for target sports. Automatic weapons are not available for private use. There is of course a black market for firearms (and guess where a lot of these come from), but if you are caught with one you can expect a long stay in prison, and to find only the most menial jobs afterwards etc.
The Police are not routinely armed, except with non-lethal batons, pepper spray and tasers. There is an armed response unit, which for the most part locks itself away until needed, or provides high visibility policing at vulnerable sites like airports and high profile events. We also have a highly trained military for when things get out of hand.
Where would you rather live?
We Brits bemoan the ‘nanny state’ and ‘health and safety gone mad’, however on this occasion I think we are lucky that the cat is still pretty much in the box.
So we come to the twitter whining, the most offensive comes in two flavours:
• I live in a free country where I can assert my right to do what I please. If you take my guns off me you are removing my freedom
• If we have armed guards in banks, how much more valuable are our children that we should protect them
Well, in order:
• sorry, but grow up. You sound like a spoilt child who thinks they’re having their ice cream taken off them. Please don’t take my shiny bangy thing. I will feel less ‘free’. I will feel less safe. Actually, if you are using the safety argument shouldn’t you be buying bullet proof vests rather than guns? Attack is rarely the best firm if defence. The constitution allows you to bear arms in order to form an organised militia against foreign invaders or oppressive regimes. Sorry, but isn’t that what the military is for? Again, in the UK if you want to get your hands on an assault rifle for the thrill of it, you can join the territorial army, a reserve force of the military made up of civilians. But no, you don’t get to take one home. That might be, I don’t know, dangerous.
• here is where I really lose my temper. First, you think you can value a life in the same way with the same words as some dollars in a bank vault? That is obscene. Of course we ‘value’ our children. We love them. We would give everything we own to protect them. But the logical leap to needing armed guards in every school simply does not follow. The antidote to bad guys with guns is not good guys with guns. It is less bad guys. It is fewer guns. It is less bullets. Ir is better parenting. It is more secure schools. It is better policing. It is better mental health care. It is non-lethal responses. It is not letting the cat out of the box in the first place.
You might think your right to have a gun should be protected to the utmost, but the right of innocent kids to carry on living is, I’m afraid, an infinitely higher priority. Grow up and do the right thing.
I can only conclude you must try and put the cat back in the box, no matter how difficult.
Yours, in peace.