“ The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” –NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre
“I know why sales of these weapons have been soaring in the last few days. It’s down to idiots like you” — Interviewer Piers Morgan talking to Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, after the Sandy Hook massacre.
The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut, late last year was appalling. Sadly multiple killings in the USA are not uncommon, but this one was particularly shocking because most of the victims were children.
Many Americans, including hundred of mayors, reacted by calling for stronger gun control laws, but gun shops across the nation actually had a bumper week of sales following the tragedy. Larry Pratt observed … if more people with guns had been at Sandy Hook Elementary School, most of the victims might still be alive. So for him, and millions of other Americans, the answer seems to be more guns, not less.
A culture steeped in guns
According to author and journalist Brian Masters: Since the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King in 1968, well over a million Americans – children and adults – have been shot to death.
Other facts about the US gun culture are also staggering –
- 80 people are killed by guns in America every day
- There are over 200 million guns owned by civilians in America
- 20,000 people kill themselves every year with guns.
‘The right to bear arms is in the Constitution!’
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is the watchdog preserving America’s right to bear arms. It’s in the constitution and woe betide anyone who wants to limit that right. The NRA is a hugely influential organisation and many of its members are white, wealthy Republicans.
All politicians are given a rating by the NRA starting with A, and basically if you support gun control you may be unelectable. If Barack Obama had suggested tightening gun control laws during the recent election campaign, Mitt Romney would now be in the White House.
The relevant article in the constitution which comes up every time there is a mass slaying in the US, is the second:
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.
This was set down in the late eighteenth century when the War of Independence had recently ended. There were on-going territorial disputes with Native Americans and there were bears and mountain lions around. The well regulated militia is certainly relevant today, but everyone having the right to keep and bear arms? And that includes deadly assault rifles and automatic weapons which can fire rapidly and often.
The gun obsession
Americans are obsessed with guns and kids get them as toys even before they’re out of the cot. Shortly after the massacre before the Connecticut tragedy, National Radio spoke to a woman in the USA who was in favour of gun control. Towards the end of the interview she was asked if they had any guns in their house. A lot she said, my husband is a gun collector.
According to Brian Masters Almost half of all American households have a gun stored as easily as the knives and forks, the bed linen and the toothpaste. Tragically the Connecticut killer, Adam Lanza, lived in such a household.
Is anything going to change?
Will anything happen this time? Barack Obama cannot stand for re-election to the presidency again, so there is a golden opportunity for leadership on the issue from the top. He has already authorized Vice President Joe Biden to investigate the tightening of gun laws. Tens of thousands of Americans reacted to this announcement by stocking up with more weapons before restrictions cut in. Biden is said to be looking at
- a national gun register
- background checks on all firearm buyers
- preventing buyers avoiding checks if they buy firearms at gun shows or via private sales
- tougher penalties on having guns near schools
- banning assault rifles.
However Republicans in Congress in particular, are not happy with the suggested restrictions and the NRA feels the solution is to have armed guard in schools. Obama is keen to move quickly while the Sandy Hook massacre is fresh in the public’s mind and as the trial proceeds of James Holmes who killed 12 people and injured 58 at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, last July.
The beloved constitution could be amended, as it was in 1933 to end the failed noble experiment prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol. The second article could be modified to limit, but not prohibit the sale of weapons.
Bang Bang the novel
If you want to read an excellent novel on what could happen, borrow Bang Bang by Lynn Hoffman from the library. Mousey waitress, Paula Sherman, decides to embark on a campaign after her boy friend is caught in the crossfire at an intersection shoot-out. She goes out at night on her skates and when she sees a vehicle with a United Gun Association sticker she smashes the window…. Go get it!