In the wake of numerous school shootings in the US and the beginnings of, and subsequent shut-downs of, debates on gun control, I was thinking about how just how puzzling the this (lack of actual) debate seems from the outside world.
Most of the rest of the world has had already had the debate, guns in the wrong hands are lethal. Restricting ownership to well trained, responsible people is a good idea. It is a done deal.
In the UK and for the majority of Europe, Asia and, well, pretty much everywhere in the world, the cultural shift has been such that declaring that you want to own a gun seems to lead people to the conclusion that you are precisely the sort of person that shouldn’t own a gun.
Its a little bit like the old Douglas Adams quote ‘It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it… anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.‘
In the majority of the developed world ‘self defence’ is not considered a valid reason for wanting to own a gun. Â
Take for example the UK and Ireland, there is a very low level of gun ownership, with just one legally held fire arm for every 30 people in England and Wales, and one legally held firearm for every 20 people in Ireland.
There are few legally valid reasons for owning a gun in the UK. If you are a farmer and you shoot crows/rabbits, you are permitted to own a Shotgun, if you’re a hunter and you’re a member of a club, and have a hunting licence, you can have a .22. Clay pigeon shooting for sport and various marksmanship reasons are also valid gun ownership reasons, but both are strictly controlled and you need to jump through a lot of hoops to obtain the necessary permissions and weapons.
Back in the 1960’s American gun ownership looked a lot more reasonable, it looked a lot more like Canada, or Europe, than it does now. The explosion in ownership seems to have been fuelled at least in part by the ‘culture wars’ which proliferated as a side project of Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’ (which you probably should read about). Somehow over the last thirty years, the NRA went from an organization primarily focused on reducing hunting accidents through education, and sensible restrictions, to being a political action group for gun manufacturers, and adopting an extremist right wing stance.
The ‘gun for self defence’ idea was, apparently, built on racism in the south, ‘if you did not have a gun (or more), then the black man could break into your house and rape your women’. Racism wrapped up as self-defence, all packaged in a neat little package to ensure that the southern states are ‘safe’.Add to that the castle doctrine, which basically allows you to shoot an intruder in your home and you have level execution of criminals (aka black men).
I really have no idea how ‘if everyone has a gun, everyone will be safe’ is supposed to work. Surely the prevalence of guns will simply escalate how arguments are settled ?
The way I see it, is that seem to come down to this:
- Most people in America don’t want to own a gun.
- Most people in America don’t mind people hunting.
However, this is compounded and confused by…..
- A highly vocal and organised minority of people want to own military grade weaponry.
- A highly vocal and organised minority want to secretly carry a gun around with them as they do their shopping, or collect their children from school.
- Another subset want rocket propelled grenades on their F150.
All of which are objectively insane.
The problem is that the people who want to do this sort of thing, really want to do this thing, and the people who aren’t so keen on it, while more numerous, don’t really care very much. There needs to be a counter balance organization to the NRA, because they face no opposition.Â The NRA appear to exist to support the gun (and ammo) industry, they therefore fight every possible mention of lowering the amount of guns in circulation.
One school shooting in the UK lead to a massive tightening of gun laws.
Yet the US has a mass shooting, literally, every couple of days and nothing changes.
There does seem to be something fundamentally strange about that to me.