Another week, another mass shooting somewhere in America. This time the unfortunate place to be was Umpqua Community College in Oregon, where a gunman killed nine people yesterday before himself being shot and killed by police.
I have never liked guns. As a Brit it’s not something I ever really had to worry about in the UK, because most handguns were banned in 1997 following the Dunblane school shooting in Scotland in 1996, where a heavily-armed middle-aged man entered a nursery school and shot to death 16 children and one teacher. It is still the worst gun atrocity that has taken place in the UK. I am particularly proud of the political response that took place after this horrendous act of evil. After a public inquiry, it was decided that almost all private ownership of handguns was to be outlawed, and this actually happened. The UK now has one of the lowest gun-related homicide rates in the world.
One of the things I dislike most about the US is the gun culture. I live in Texas and it’s particularly prevalent here, as well as many other parts of the deep south, but it touches everywhere to a greater or lesser extent. That Americans have become so inoculated to gun violence and these prolific mass shootings is… I almost have no words for it (but as a writer I’m damn well going to try). The Second Amendment is woefully outdated. The fact that the NRA is near single-handedly repelling all efforts at effective gun control is horribly offensive. People are dying on a regular basis, but Congress still cannot pass even the mildest gun control legislation (such as better background checks for people seeking handgun licences, for example) without the NRA and its denizens flooding the airwaves with panic-inducing press releases detailing how the Second Amendment is under assault yet again.
Americans love their guns, and the sad truth is they love their guns more than they love its people. These tragic deaths are preventable, but the NRA and many right-wing politicians have whipped up the populace into such an anti-government frenzy that you would think the government was sending federal agents to your home right now to take all of your weapons, and probably your money and property too.
The blowback has already started. Governor Jeb Bush, a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, was quoted today as saying “I don’t think more government is necessarily the answer to this… stuff happens”.
Sorry nine people who died yesterday in an attempt to get an education and better themselves. Stuff happens. Sorry to the 10,000 people that have been killed in gun-related violence in the US this year (so far). Stuff happens.
Why some Americans are obsessed with keeping these killing machines close at hand I do not fully understand. I can somewhat understand the idea of wanting to keep your family safe and perhaps – perhaps – I can see that for some a gun might be the best way they can think of to do that. For the average person though, there is no need for them.
But guns don’t kill people – people kill people!
Not buying it, sorry. The fact that guns are so easy for the average person to obtain is precisely why there are so many gun-related shootings and killings. And it’s a lot easier to injure and kill people – especially a lot of people – with a gun than with a knife or almost any other kind of weapon. Sure, if guns were (somehow) banned then you would still see some kinds of violence, but instead of killing nine, maybe he would only have been able to get to one or two before being overcome – or maybe even zero. We don’t know, and there isn’t the political will amongst the right-wing establishment to find out.
Over the next couple of weeks you’ll see the usual talking heads on the news say that gun control would not have stopped him, he would have killed regardless, or would have found some other way to do it. Everyone will go about their business, and essentially nothing will change. And then there’ll be another mass shooting, a few weeks after that there’ll be another, and so on and so forth. A recent study by Harvard University showed that the rate of mass shootings has increased threefold since 2011. The interval between these types of events is becoming shorter and shorter until eventually we’ll be at one a day; the only thing the news will have time to report is where it took place and how many were killed, before moving on to the next.
America needs to kick its gun habit and get clean. More so than ever, I don’t see that happening in my lifetime.