Following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in America in 2012, I did wonder if the tide may have turned and we might at last see more restrictions placed on gun ownership, to prevent these seemingly annual shootings from reoccurring.
I wondered but was not hopeful. President Obama, defeated in a vote and the Senate shamefully rejecting background checks for firearm sales put paid to that.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) Vice President Wayne LaPierre appeared at a press conference in the wake of the shootings of 26 children and teachers to exclaim ‘the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun’. Amid much heckling he unbelievably insisted, like some third-rate car salesman, that had there been armed security guards at the school this tragedy could have been prevented. He also pointed the finger at the wide use of violent video games as another causal factor.
Obviously more concerned with the financial implications of this tragedy he went on, making much of the mental state of the gunman, Adam Lanza, who suffered with Asperger’s Syndrome, whereby he found it difficult forming relationships and had behavioural problems, and it was not the weapon but the individual behind the weapon that was to blame.
The gun laws within the US Constitution appear to be hard-wired into US national life since its conception in 1787, detailing the right of gun ownership for individuals for purposes that include self-defence.
To many outsiders, the notion that restrictions on gun ownership would not be a given in a tragedy such as this defies all logic.
After the Dunblane Massacre in Scotland in 1996, in which 16 children and a teacher were killed, far stringent restrictions were introduced on gun ownership and the pubic responded en mass, such was the shock and horror that this event provoked.
However, the UK is not the US, and I appreciate it’s a different society, built on their own set of values and unique histories.
Having said that, to the gun lobby, who remain defiant in the face of opposition, I would offer the following sobering examples of why their arguments are completely delusional.
At the Ford Hook Military Base in Killeen, Texas in 2009, a gunman went on a rampage. Even the thousands of military personnel who were on duty couldn’t stop the carnage. 13 people were killed that day, and 30 injured.
The shooting at the Batman Premiere in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, in which James Holmes 24, was able to kill and wound many. There were cinema goers present with weapons in their possession, but when faced with a gunman who had planned his attack thoroughly, had many firearms, body armour, and the element of surprise on his side, they were rendered impotent. He subsequently killed 12 and injured 58 people.
At various other high-profile shootings, allegedly there are reports of witnesses who also had weapons at their disposal but were unable to respond. I imagine some were rooted to the floor in a seemingly ‘dreamlike state’ as the terrifying event unfolded before them. Unable to think clearly, let alone take any decisive action.
Having a gun offers no guarantees of survival in a real life situation, and it is disingenuous of the gun lobby to pretend otherwise.
I suppose it comes down to what kind of society you want to live in, and the legacy you wish to leave behind for your children and future generations. Hopefully, the public will one day see sense and put increased pressure on the gun lobby, and in respect for the memory of the 26 children killed at Sandy Hook, and all other victims of mass shootings, the long process of applying more robust safeguards for gun ownership can begin in earnest.