Within hours, the British media seem to have forgotten all about Parkland FL and the 17 staff and pupils shot and killed by a disturbed ex-pupil. As the 17th such shooting in this year alone, editors saw it as another unfortunate incident in the waves of such incidents that sweep America. Last year, 33,3,694 people (equivalent to the entire city all Stirling) were killed by firearms in the US, a ratio of 106 gun deaths per million population Gun deaths stats per million in Britain? It’s 1.
President Trump, whose campaign received millions of dollars from the National Rifle Association and who address their confidence asserting “the NRA now has a friend in me White House, had overturned gun control legislation and reacted the Parkland shooting by praising First Responders and blaming it all on psychiatric shortcomings of the shooter. And that should be that. Nothing much happened after Columbine. Or Sandy Hook. Or Virginia Tech. Or the concept in Las Vegas. Why would Parkland not fade from Focus in a similar manner, despite gruesone statistics for mass shootings?
Deaths from Recent Mass Shootings in the USA (Source BBC)
Annual gun deaths exceed even the carnage on America’s roads—death now touching 33,000 annually. Add the two statistics together and there are more Americans dying brutally in their own country each year them all American casualties in the Vietnam War. There may be out rage, what is there any action?
Well, it would seem that the other pupils in Parkland have not just been grieving about their loss but have been getting pretty angry about there being more guns than people in America and the wonky laws that exist to control their use. So they went to Washington and held a demonstration so the President new how they fell. And they lobbied their senator Rubio (who, like many on Capitol Hill also received serious funding from the NRA). These young people are recruiting friends from across the country for an even bigger demonstration.
They have a huge task ahead to change anything. We Europeans may share Western civilisation with Americans but any mutual empathy stops when it comes to guns. Wild West frontier necessity aside, guns were always integral to t American culture. Gun-lovers cite the Second Amendment to the US Constitution unendingly: ” …the right to bear arms shall not be infringed”. What those gun-lovers fail to cite is the bit peior, which says: “for the maintenance if a will trained militia,…”.
Given that the amendment was adopted in 1791, barely a decade after asserting their independence and before other fratricidal clashes with Imperial Britain like the War of 1812, the second amendment may well have been necessary. But in the i 227 years since, the world has moved on—and America more than most. Back in 1791, it was seen as necessary to extirpate Indians in the way of expansion of the new nation. Back in 1791, it was legal—even necessary—to own slaves to make cotton plantations viable. 227 years later, an enlightened America now eschewa such one-time axioms as inappropriate for 21st-century civilisation.
Why are copious armories of guns any different?
Each nation holds conceits about itself: Brits are refined & reserved; Germans diligent & precise; Italians voluble & creative. The Americans see themselves as self-reliant entrepreneurial pioneers. They make heroes of the alpha male. And all pioneers carving a future from the wilderness must defend themselves. But crucially it is not just gun-lovers who oppose gun control. A wide swathe of suburban middle America keep guns at home against burglary or attack. Given American crime statistics, this can be argued as reasonable behaviour.
The NRA play on this. Their mantra is “if you make guns illegal, only the criminals Will have guns”. Apologists appear even here on television with variants on this. Andrea Ockefeld (sp?), an articulate millennial, was on BBC News several times in the aftermath of Parkland making a case against any curb on guns because this would only make it harder for good citizens to acquire them. She cited the recent church massacre in Texas where the gunman was halted by someone with a rifle handy in the gun rack of his pickup truck.
But the times they are a’changin’. Despite the right wing and generally gun-supporting Republicans holding all the key posts in the White House, and Congress, the stubborn resistance to addressing this carnage may be starting to crack at last. The young are marching. Prompted by a president they cannot abide, liberals are organising. And ordinarily, apolitical folk are asking why there should be twice as many guns her head in the USA as there are in war torn Yemen.
Major resistance Will come from a $13.5 billion gun Industry and the 4 million members of the NRA. But when 100 million suburban middle American parents start getting lobbied by the 16-year-old apple of their eye why they need something is dangerous as a loaded revolver in the bedside table, let alone an assault rifle locked in the garaged, then a majority for change will become overwhelming.
America is a great country, partly because it learned to respect its natives and free its slaves. As it’s bountiful spaces become more crowded, its people will learn to be more neighbourly and less ruggedly independent—as Europeans once had to. Those who dislike the prospect might consider Alaska.
Once significant portions of the 300+ million guns have been melted down into something more useful, this shameful homicide rate, this street warfare blighting Chicago, St Louis, Baltimore, etc., this unconscionable number of police officers killed on duty will drop to something other parts of the west have enjoyed for decades.
The resulting Bruce to the American economy will swamp any effect of job losses at Smith & Wesson more importantly, it will dwarf the bloated promises made by their current NRA-sponsored President. Perhaps it will even lead to something more enlightened.