Back in October 2015, I wrote an article regarding gun crime and American attitudes to these weapons. Among the details, I talked about how gun crime in the US compared to other countries, circa 2012. In the wake of the terrible events that unfolded in Las Vegas yesterday, and despite claims by certain parties that this matter should not be discussed yet (when is a good time to discuss it, one wonders?), I’m going to once again tackle the attitudes that Americans (and I must stress, not all Americans) have toward guns.
It’s an historical relationship, enshrined in the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution, a document written centuries ago, during a very different era. It came into being in December 1791, and followed on from the Declaration of Independence and the tensions leading up to the Revolutionary War. As a matter of note, the 2nd Amendment took inspiration from an English Bill of Rights, one that spoke of the right to self-defense, the right to resist invaders and resistance to oppression. During the turbulent times of the Revolution and the formative years of the USA, the right to bear arms (perhaps even a need) would have proven important to the protection of one’s family, from both thieves/raiders, and the possibility of a tyrannical government/government forces. Taking up arms to repel invaders would have been seen as a patriotic duty.
These documents were drawn up to reflect weapons that bear little resemblance to the firearms of today. Unwieldy, inaccurate and slow to reload, these were nothing like the rifles and pistols and machine guns of today. As time has gone by, the US has developed a police force and a military to take over civic duties and national defence. The original right to bear arms in the 2nd Amendment is not reflective of these changes. Instead, some 55 million Americans have firearms, and access to them is made easy. You don’t even need a permit in many US states.
Despite the popular claim from pro-gun lobbies, the prevalence of guns in US society does not make people safer – in fact, quite the opposite. States with more guns have more gun-related deaths. This also pans out on a national level – with the USA leading the way on this by a considerable margin – just check out the statistics from this page.
This isn’t just about murders and mass shootings – it is far easier to commit suicide with a gun, and this is also reflected in the link above.
I can’t advocate banning guns completely from US society – I don’t understand the love affair with a deadly weapon, but it’s something that’s deeply engrained into US culture and not about to change. However, as I have said elsewhere, the definition of insanity (or stupidity) is repeating the same thing over and over again, whilst expecting a different outcome. Every time a mass shooting happens, we hear that it’s not the right time to talk about gun control, and every time a mass shooting happens, nothing changes. Access to these deadly weapons remains very easy. Other countries have taken steps to introduce much tighter regulations and have seen sharp reductions in death rates from guns, and a drop in homicide rates overall. These are not co-incidences.