Playing with fire: is it time for gun control in America?

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January 1, 2013 by Nash Riggins

If there’s anything Americans love more than freedom, it’s the freedom to carry a gun; however, only an idiot would argue that the nation’s disproportionate murder rate is not directly linked to its archaic obsession with firearms.

In fact, roughly 40-50% of the planet’s civilian-owned firearms are kept in American basements and glove boxes – which is excessively greedy, given that the US boasts less than 5% of the world’s population. Subsequently, conservative figures estimate that there are more guns moving up and down American streets than there are legal adults.

Given this recipe for disaster, it hardly comes as a surprise that the murder rate in America was 4 times higher than that of the UK last year – and 6 times higher than Germany’s. Indeed, 2012 was the year for mass shootings in the US. On 20 July, a lone gunman killed 12 people and injured another 58 at a movie theatre in Colorado. Two weeks later, a misguided hate crime at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin left 7 casualties. On 27 September, yet another mass shooting took place at a manufacturer in Minneapolis – and on 14 December, 27 children and teachers were mercilessly killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Thankfully, the latter has successfully rebooted a much-needed – but seemingly stillborn – debate regarding gun control in the United States; however, what little progress said debate could have otherwise instigated has already been eclipsed by the looming disaster that will accompany America’s unresolved fiscal cliff. This comes as no surprise, either, as nothing quite compares to a Congressman’s ability to subtly change the topic of conversation whenever the phrase ‘gun control’ is uttered near Capitol Hill.

Indeed, many NRA-backed Conservatives often demerit cries for gun control by way of the rationale that ‘the more good guys have guns, the less shots the bad guys are able to fire’. This assertion is childish to say the least.

Every country has its deranged madmen. In fact, on the exact same day that Adam Lanza gunned down over two dozen innocent children and school employees in Connecticut, a man named Min Yongjun burst into a Henan province classroom in China and went on a rampage of his own. The would-be killer hacked away at 23 schoolchildren before he was finally apprehended. Yet as gun control is far less negligent in China, Min Yongjun was only able to arm himself with a knife; therefore, all of his young victims survived. It’s worth pointing out that the ‘good guys’ in this scenario didn’t need a gun in order to bring down the failed murderer in question, as the assailant had no viable access to one.

Bearing this less notable news bulletin in mind, there appears to be just one potential method with which to greatly reduce gun-related crime in America – but it’s unsurprisingly the one piece of legislature that few politicians are brave enough to endorse. The right to bear arms is spelled out quite clearly within America’s Bill of Rights – right next to a series of sensible human rights, such as freedoms of speech and religion. Therefore, it appears as if an American’s right to carry a firearm is coveted in much the same way as his or her ability to speak freely. Any sensible US citizen should be dreadfully embarrassed by this nonsensical mode of prioritisation, and would do well to look to their nation’s ‘closest ally’ for some friendly how-to advice.

Implementing a mass disarmament of gun-loving civilians seems near-impossible in America; however, it also once seemed impossible in the UK – that is, until a school shooting took place at an elementary school in the Scottish town of Dunblane. 16 children and one teacher were killed by a lone gunman, sparking national outrage and instigating a series of strict gun laws that few opponents could find a reasonable argument against. From 1997, the private ownership of most handguns was effectively banned in Britain – and as a result, the entire nation sees an average of less than 40 people killed by firearms every year.

Any freedom-loving American would no doubt shudder at the mere thought of such a ban; however, it should interest them to know that it’s still perfectly possible for anyone in the UK to own a wide array of shotguns and rifles, so long as the applicant can prove to police that they have a legitimate reason to do so. Such reasons may vary, from wishing to join a local gun club to hunting deer in the countryside – yet the application process is extremely and justifiably rigid.

Hours of paperwork precede the submission of a reference, who is in turn obligated to answer a lengthy list of personal questions about the applicant’s psychological state, home life and general attitude towards firearms. Assuming the applicant successfully completes this stage, the state then runs criminal-record checks before consulting family doctors regarding the applicant’s potential histories of drug abuse, alcohol abuse or personal disorders.

That being said, if you love guns but have nothing to hide, there’s no reason to worry – after all, there are an estimated 1.8 million privately owned weapons throughout Britain. Pair this with just 39 gun-related killings last year, and one can’t help but wonder if Westminster is really on to something.

Until the United States implements a series of strict, nationwide gun control laws, innocent Americans are going to continue to die on a daily basis – and the loudest gun supporter in the world can’t argue otherwise. After all, both logic and experience dictate that the only way in which to truly control mass gun-crime is by drastically restricting potential ownership, full stop.

What does this mean for President Obama? An impossible series of uphill negotiations with irrational freedom-lovers, paired with Constitutional alterations, the construction of an enticing government buy-back programme and a new screening process for purchasing legal firearms that doesn’t allow for ‘gun show exemptions’ or any recognisable loop-holes.

Success in the UK has proven that such a 180-degree policy change is indeed achievable – yet if the senseless killing of 21 young children isn’t enough to convince trigger-happy voters it’s time to change an archaic law system that encourages mass murder, nothing is.

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3 thoughts on “Playing with fire: is it time for gun control in America?

  1. Emma says:

    Congress will never pass gun legislature like Britain. The NRA’s budget is too big, and our lawmakers are too fickle. But definitely a good model to point out.

  2. darrelltoddmaurina says:

    I read your article, as requested in a LinkedIn group. I’m posting what follows both on your own website and the LinkedIn comments section.

    Unlike some foreign commentators on firearms ownership in America, you’ve correctly pointed to the key difference between the United States and Britain on this issue — the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which places the right to keep and bear arms in the same position as the rights under the First Amendment to freedom of speech, of the press, and of religion, and other rights enumerated later such as the right to a jury trial and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

    What you propose is simply impossible without amending our Constitution.

    That is extremely difficult, and it is very, very unlikely to happen. Without changing the Second Amendment, the British practice you cite of requiring that people prove to authorities that they have a valid need to own a firearm is just as unconstitutional as it would be to prove to authorities that they have a valid need to post on the internet or publish a book or give a speech.

    America and Britain have different legal traditions and very different histories. There was a day that people in Britain needed licenses from the government not only to own a gun but also to operate a printing press or to preach in public. As Americans, we made the decision more than two centuries ago to keep government out of that type of regulation, and the Second Amendment is only one part of a broader spectrum of differences in views of the proper role of government in regulating people’s lives.

    People in a democracy have the right to elect the type of government they want, and to establish constitutions that limit what governing bodies can do, thereby preventing the passions of the moment from leading elected officials to make bad laws which may be popular in the short-term but bad long-term policy.

    Isn’t the right of different people to decide their futures for themselves what democracy is all about?

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