Clem Sunter

A case for gun control

2012-12-19 09:00

Clem Sunter

In an article entitled 21.12.12 a couple of weeks ago, I reported on a conversation with a young American woman where we agreed scenario planning should extend beyond rational threats and “that you have to cover all angles by putting yourself into the mind of the enemy, however wacky that mind is.”

Unspeakable evil

Since then, Adam Lanza aged 20 forced his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and committed a crime of unspeakable evil. He shot 20 children and six adults before shooting himself. He also shot his mother at home. How do you in any way anticipate a crime like this? He lived in a decent suburb and though he had some mental problems, he did not have a criminal record. Nevertheless, what amazed me was that he had access to so many sophisticated guns alleged to belong to his mother. I wondered how many other houses in that suburb had an armoury like that.

To provide some context, I looked up some statistics on the internet. The US has 89 guns per 100 citizens versus 31 for Norway (where a crime of comparable evil was recently committed by a young man with guns) and 6 for England, Wales and Scotland. The right of people in America to keep and bear arms was ratified as the Second Amendment to their Constitution in December, 1791. The gun lobby in America, principally represented by The National Rifle Association, is bigger and more influential than in any other nation. One only has to remember the Wild West where many men carried a Colt 45 in a holster on their hip and the fastest draw lived to fight another duel on another day. The right to bear arms is not just a legal clause. It is embedded in the history and culture of America.

So when Barack Obama says that something must now be done to reduce the frequency of these mass shootings (Columbine in 1999 and Virginia Tech in 2007 being previous examples) or eliminate them altogether, you have to say good luck to him. On the one hand, this is his second term and he can do unpopular things because he cannot be re-elected again. On the other hand, he faces immense resistance to any change in gun laws which reduce sales at a time when America is trying to climb out of the great recession.

The only answer

The problem is that technology has now produced semi-automatic and automatic weapons which can fire multiple rounds per second. Even a bad shot can inflict a lot of damage in an extremely short time, which is why these weapons are banned in many countries. The police in Newtown reacted with commendable swiftness but they could not stop the slaughter.

Gun control is the only answer to reduce the probability of such a scenario. But then it has to be universal so that it is not only the good guys that give up their guns. That will just make them more vulnerable. Harsh penalties must force the bad guys to cough up guns on the banned list too. They have to be treated like chemical weapons – a total no-no carrying a life sentence.

I know the argument will be put forward that Scotland with a figure of 6 guns per 100 citizens had its own school massacre at Dunblane in 1996, but if you have a better idea than gun control, please put it forward. For me, it is the only way for the most powerful nation on Earth to stop inflicting such enormous harm on itself. Go for it, Barack.

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