Earlier this week, yet another mass shooting in the US made headlines. At the Umpqua Community College in Oregon, 9 people were killed before the gunman took his own life. This is not an uncommon story in America, and during his presidency, Barack Obama “has had to deliver statements on gun violence 15 times”. In spite of this, and the many incidents of gun violence this year alone, the gun law debate still rages on.
To those outside of America, this debate seems ludicrous – the statistics are clear, firearms have killed more people in the US than terrorist attacks. It is the only developed nation with such lax gun control laws, and in which firearms are so widely and freely available. Just take the video below:
Guns are actively being marketed towards children, with the rifle shown including a pink version to ‘suit’ girls as well as boys. Despite the emphasis on safety, this advert is still frightening in its appeal to American families. Though as a documentary produced by Channel 4 asks, how safe is it to give a child a gun?
Again, opinion on this issue is divided. Some parents argue that as long as children are taught the correct safety procedures, the risks are minimal. Others disagree, and claim that even with safety features and training, equipping children with firearms carries high risk.
So it follows that if a child can own a gun in a high number of states in the US, firearms are pretty easy to come by. Big chains such as Walmart sell guns, and although in-store firearm purchases require background checks, guns purchased from friends and family or at ‘gun shows’ do not. To those outside of America, again this seems crazy. It boils down to quite literally anybody being able to legally buy a firearm, irrespective of safety training or motive.
Now, pro-gun lobbyists and supporters will argue that to tighten gun control laws would restrict the second amendment, and their right to bear arms. Ignoring the fact that the firearm industry is worth billions, and thus keeping laws as they are is firmly in their interests, the other argument that is often cited is that guns make America safer – you can protect yourself and your family from attack. To put it simply, this is wrong. Common sense will tell you that more guns means more accidents, more dangerous attacks, and ultimately more deaths – “the myth of the good guy with a gun”.
So back to the mass shooting in Oregon. The motives/mental health of the individual who committed this crime is as yet unclear, but imagine for a moment that he did not have access to any firearms (another 14 were found at his home) or that security checks at purchase were more stringent, and it is not hard to believe that this tragedy could have had a very different outcome.
This is not an opinion shared by some, with pro-gun supporters instead arguing that teachers, or even students should be able to conceal carry weapons. One twitter user even states “Be a victim, or not. Your choice.”, suggesting that shared blame for the tragedy lies with the gunman and the community college’s “no gun zone” policy.
Such remarks and sentiments miss the point entirely. Not only does it show a complete lack of empathy with the victim’s families, but having students or staff carry guns on site is neither the prevention or the cure for such incidents as this. Equally the decision not to name the gunman in an attempt to stop copycat killings will have a very limited impact. Remove guns, or at the very least significantly tighten gun control laws, and you lessen the risk of gun attacks in the first place. Sure, gun crime will not be completely eradicated, there will always be the potential for incidents to occur, and guns will still be circulated illegally, but the number of deaths and injuries from gun violence will decrease.
His failure to tighten gun control laws is Obama’s one regret from his time in office. The Aurora theatre shooting, the Columbine high school massacre, the Virginia Tech massacre, the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting and more. How many must follow before America changes its mind and decides to take action?
Another perspective on #guncontrol in America, particularly in relation to mental health – Last Week Tonight with John Oliver looks at the statistics concerning the perpetrators of gun crime and the victims of gun violence.