After the appalling shootings of school kids and teachers in Newton, USA, the US government finally seems to have accepted there needs to be a change in US gun law. If so, then Newton will be a long awaited watershed event for those who have long argued for legislation to control the sale of guns. While many favour the outright banning of all guns, the powerful gun lobby and National Rifle Association was never going to let that happen.
It does seem, however, that the mood is shifting and some kind of sense is finally prevailing with moves under way to at least ban assault rifles and high capacity magazines, the kind used by Adam Lanza in his murderous spree.
You would think this would be a good thing, less guns on streets, or at least less assault rifles. Many people have argued, understandably, that there is no good reason for assault rifles, the kind the army uses, to be in the hands of civilians.
However, with the news that the Obama administration is looking at ways to ban such weapons, stores selling guns report that any weapon which people believe may be included in a forthcoming federal gun ban, have been selling out. People know they may not be able to purchase these weapons in future so are getting them now while they can. This could easily be offset by also making it illegal to possess an assault rifle.
David Usborne wrote in The Independent:
“It is a sad tradition in America that each mass shooting is followed by a surge in gun sales, in part because people calculate they need more firepower to protect themselves. That explains why the days since last Friday have also seen a surge in sales of special backpacks for school children lined with bullet-proof material. Their manufacturers allege they work well as shields in classroom firefights.”
Not only are people buying increased ‘firepower’ to ‘protect themselves’ but companies are selling bullet-proof backpacks for school kids. As crazy as this sounds to the UK public, many American parents clearly see them as a new ‘must have’, possibly life saving, piece of school equipment. It is difficult to imagine sending your kid of to school with the parting thought, “Make sure you’re wearing your bullet proof backpack…”
There is hugely divided opinion in the US about gun possession. Even after a massacre like Newton, staunch supporters of groups like the National Rifle Association still argue in favour of guns. In a recent statement the NRA have indicated continued opposition to any ban on any type of gun. In stead, their ‘solution’ seems to be a register of people with mental health problems (some might argue the desire to possess firearms whatever the ‘human life’ cost is itself a sign of mental health problems!).
The NRA also advocate posting a trained armed guard at schools. You honestly wonder what it would take for them to back down. They staunchly defend what they see as their constitutional right to possess firearms, some even believing that rather than banning the sale of guns,even teachers should be routinely armed now so that, should, God forbid, someone go on the rampage in another school, the teachers could ‘take them out’ using their own guns. Some might consider that a recipe for disaster. But perhaps schools should have an armed guard on premises at all times, much like US flights now have armed marshals on board. Others have long argued for an outright ban on all guns. It may seem ludicrous to western onlookers, but if we lived in the US where school massacres are far too common place and the lives of our kids were at stake, we might not think it such a ‘far out’ idea but it still sends shivers down the spine.
It is tragically ironic that gun and ammunition sales are surging at the same time as funeral services for victims of the massacre are taking place. You could hardly think of a worse tribute.
While a substantial section of the Democrat Party have supported the call for tighter guns laws, the Republic Party has been far less vociferous on the topic.
Of course gun ownership is an intrinsic part of US culture but that doesn’t mean it should remain so. Some would argue that there are so many well armed criminal gangs in the US that civilian possession of guns is the only solution for protection. Banning guns isn’t going to stop criminals obtaining them. But some seem to collect guns the way others collect dvd’s or console games and that can’t be a healthy mindset.
With all the arguing over the Newton massacre, one argument seems beyond reproach. If Adam Lanza hadn’t been able to obtain weaponry (from his mother’s armoury) then he couldn’t have murdered his victims.
Any ban on guns in America is surely a step in the right direction and we must hope and pray that the Obama Administration, the Republican Party and the National Rifle Association, have enough humanity between them to recognise that any perceived ‘right’ to possess firearms must always come second to the right to live life without being gunned down in your school classroom. That is surely the very least that the victims deserve.