Monday, December 31, 2012

Guns and Freedom: An American Conundrum

I didn’t grow up with guns. I have never owned a gun. In fact, as a child and young adult in Great Britain, I never even saw a gun - except on television.

The United States is very different to Great Britain. It has different freedoms and a unique history that has given birth to those freedoms. Because of this, threats to take away people’s guns by force would go nowhere. Nor would it solve the issue of gun violence. Criminals will always get guns – legal or not.

In the aftermath of the murder of 20 six and seven year-olds, as well as six adults, at a Connecticut school, there has never been a more critical time for serious debate about guns. The National Rifle Association’s claim that the reason for mass school shootings is not the prevalence of military-style weapons but the lack of armed officers in schools left me cold. This misses the point entirely. It also assumes that living in an armed society is normal. It isn’t.

Even though I’m not a citizen, I have lived here as a legal resident for two decades and support the right to bear arms. But I would suggest some common sense restrictions, especially with regard to military-style assault weapons that release a round of bullets with one pull of the trigger.

The NRA has easy answers. Gun control advocates have easy answers. But the answers are not easy. The issue is far from simple, and changing the law is not going to make guns disappear from the black market. What is needed is dialogue, not unilateral dictates. Those children cannot have died in vain. After each of the recent massacres there has been excuses and inaction; now is the time for action.

Armed guards wouldn’t make classrooms safer, let alone promote a learning environment. There would have to be guards in every classroom and not just at the entrances as there are many ways to get into a school. A student simply has to put a gun in a bag, come to school as normal and start shooting, and there will be multiple deaths before an armed guard could get there. Schools should be safe sanctuaries, not armed camps.

So, what to do? For a start, severely restrict or ban the relative easy access to military style assault weapons, whose purpose is to kill human beings. Close the loopholes that allow guns to be sold without background checks, and have a mandatory training course for all guns purchased.

Consider the issue of mental illness and alienation in society. Most—if not all--of the recent perpetrators of mass shootings seemed to be mentally ill. Beef up the background checks for mental illness. And buying guns and ammo on the internet just seems like a really bad idea.

A recent no-questions-asked gun buyback program in Los Angeles was a huge success. Expand this to other towns and cities. Fewer guns on the streets can only be a good thing.

Today children are bombarded with violence throughout the gaming industry, movies, and the media. Where is the outrage about the ever increasing violence in video games?

In a free society there has to be reason and I hope there will be a shift in the conversation. America is better than this. What next? Kids going to school wearing bullet proof vests?


Anonymous said...

While I agree with the actions you proposed, I question if more dialogue will improve the chances that necessary actions will be taken. Dialogue with gun manufacturers who are known to put profit above anything (including human lives) will not change their stance or reduce the many millions of dollars they spend on lobbyists and PR campaigns to resist any controls on the sale of guns.

Congress already has legislation on record to address some of the key risk factors associated with American citizens' 'freedom' to bear arms, i.e., some solutions are readily available in the form of laws that should be re-enacted quickly.

An article at this link makes a strong case that "Now is the time to blow the whistle on the gun industry" with a proven formula--the same approach that curbed the tobacco industry and its life-imperling products. Who can argue that guns are less of a public menace than cigarettes?

I personally want to believe the author's statement that the "wolf's teeth" of gun industry may not be so sharp after all, so that America --at both the federal and state level--can break the insidious grip of the gun industry that endangers the public health and safety in order to maximize its profits.

Christopher said...

Anonymous: Thanks for the post. Thus far there has been no dialogue whatsoever. There can’t have been a more critical time to start. I agree that the gun lobby has incredible influence, a fact that makes politicians fearful of going against the NRA. I am just calling for common sense, though you make an excellent point about profits. Isn’t that what influences so much in politics at the end of the day?

Ev said...

As a Brit, we don't get it, why you are all obsessed with guns. Common sense says more guns equals more deaths. look at the lack of guns in europe and compare the deaths. chalk and cheese. Get real Usa. get rid of guns.

Christopher said...

Ev: Thanks for the comments. Yes, guns are a real issue here but the answers are not easy. I didn’t get it until I had been here some years – guns are a large part of the culture in many part of the US. I wish there were easy answers, which is why I am on the side of tighter controls; changing minds about owning guns is a much longer term project.

Anonymous said...

Americans have the concept of freedom confused with many things, including the right to own and conceal guns even though this practice makes us less safe and causes needless deaths and tragic events. We also think we deserve the right to drive huge cars and build huge houses and use energy and other resources wastefully even if we damage and degrade the environment. We are so out of touch with a realistic place in the scheme of life. We strive to justify exploitation as a virtue. I'm always sad when people invoke the 'Founding Fathers' to justify these selfish and destructive beliefs and practices--in truth, the Founding Fathers promoted a sense of respect and responsibility that is sadly lacking today in our society.

Christopher said...

Anonymous: It does seem as if the ‘Founding Fathers’ are used to justify many contentious issues. I couldn’t agree more about a lack of responsibility and respect in society - it seems as if we are becoming ever more polarized.

cumberland harbourga said...
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Sean Holland said...

This is rediculous... your saying you knowledge of guns comes from tv? Great starting point. I hate when people have opinions on things they know nothing about. Even more so if there not even american... and who was it that said some shit about america getting its rights confused? Um its something called the constitution! It was written shortly after kicking the fucking british out of our country. It was designed to make sure nobody could take our land and keep another tyrant from controlling us. It IS our right as americans to own guns... litteraly, we have it in writting!! Now if you pulled your head out of your ass and looked at actual facts youd notice, most gun related crimes are done with illegal or unregistered guns. You might think well, make all guns illegal, that will fix that. Well your a moron... those guns typically get smuggled in through mexico, cuba, and rarely canada. Now youve taken my guns away, while a steady flow of illegal guns continue to flow over our borders. You might say well america is in no danger of being invaded... well look at our country right now. Iraq, afghanastan, korea, china, mexico, south america, fuck most of africa all hate america right now. And ive gotta ask... did you say a round of fire?? What the fuck is that? Of your trying to say our guns are fully automatic, your wrong. We do allow them but its a huge complex prosses most people dont want to bother with. Id say less then 1% of gun owners have fully auto guns. Also those kids where not killed by an ar-15... get your facts straight. And if you realky do your research youd know that theres a lot we were not told about that shooting... looks more like a set up. Please excuse any typos, this was done on a cellphone

Anonymous said...

As an American I have to blame the British for the gun problem. If it weren't for them we wouldn't have the second amendment to the constitution.

We need our arms in order to keep other countries from over-taxing our tea.

On a more serious note the price of freedom is there will be things like this that happen. In the past many of these shooters would be institutionalized or medicated beforehand to keep them from hurting others. That is no longer allowed, so they are free to do what they want in society.

Now the president wants to make new laws that he feels will be worth it "if it saves one life". Seems kind of knee jerk to change the constitution to save one life. If you look at the numbers many more people are killed by handguns than assault weapons and more are killed in cities with the toughest gun laws than anywhere else.

You have to get to the cause in order to solve a problem. Guns aren't the cause of the problem.

I don't own a gun, but I do get annoyed when people who don't own guns think they have the right to tell everyone else what to do.

Christopher said...


Thank you for the post. You miss my point about seeing guns on television. I am simply stating an opinion that stronger background checks, restricted access to military-style assault weapons, and mandatory training/safety classes might serve to reduce gun violence. What is misguided about that?

The shootings in Connecticut a set-up? Do tell me more.