Feature image credit: Huffington Post
During the 2010s there have been 351 deaths from mass shootings in the US. Gun control has been a big debate in the US government and has determined the fates of political leaders. But why is it so hard to control, and why can’t the US just implement a strict gun ban?
For those living in the UK it seems unfathomable to hear news reports about mass shootings taking place around the world and in particular the United States. It's difficult to comprehend why people want/need guns considering a variety of countries have very strict gun laws whilst on the other side of the pond they consider it an important, almost integral, part of their lives.
Gun control has been a very serious and very real debate in the US for many years now with many politicians and celebrities advocating for different sides. As easy it seems to place a total ban on guns, sadly there’s no one answer to the debate. Some feel as though it's their god-given right to have those guns as much as others think it’s their right to make a cup of coffee each morning - and that is why this argument is so messy. To begin the debate it has to start with the matter of culture and then, perspective. For anyone reading this who doesn’t live in the US or isn’t aware of the culture difference then you must first understand why it is they want to avoid bans and restrictions.
Photo credit: Everytown
Going back to the 2000s when George W. Bush was President of the United States, his Vice President Al Gore began advocating for stricter gun laws. Al Gore in his younger days never fought for gun safety after believing that guns didn’t pose a national threat to public safety. The turning point in his political stance on the debate came one month after the Columbine High School shooting, where 13 people died. After that, he became a prime advocate for change and in turn became the key target of the National Rifle Association (NRA). The famous Charlton Heston speech was given at the time of him being the president of the NRA; “for everyone who can hear the sound of my voice, to hear and to heed and especially for you Mr [Al] Gore, [you can take it] from my cold dead hands”. The historic speech caused eruption amongst those listening in front of Heston putting their hands together and cheering. The impact was huge to have the Hollywood legend at the forefront of the NRA showing his support for guns and since then the NRA has become a major political force with over five million members and even more capital. It can make or break politicians that either stand with or against the use of guns. Today there are many politicians and celebrities who have shown support for the organisation, including Chuck Norris, Whoopi Goldberg and the current President of the United States who was given $30 million USD during his 2016 presidential campaign to help him get elected.
Pictured Charlton Heston, photo credit: The Hollywood Reporter
With the US democrats battling it out to see who will face Trump in the 2020 Presidential Elections next year, gun control features prominently on candidate's manifestos. One of the biggest names and biggest supporter of gun control is Bernie Sanders. The Senator for Vermont is a known opposition to the NRA stating that “the NRA, now a full-fledged, right-wing political organization, spends millions on TV and internet ads attacking candidates who dare to stand up for what voters want”. The Democratic hopeful pledges to crack down on gun laws by introducing harsher background checks, to end the gun show loophole and to ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons. Amongst those also battling it out for the leader of the opposition, he doesn’t stand alone as his competitors agree with the principles and encourage gun control however their plans of action do differ.
To have a gun in a UK household without a license is illegal and would be frowned upon by others as it is nationally not considered safe or necessary, however in the US it is quite common to have a gun and would be considered by some a safer household than any without a gun. There’s the culture difference. The second amendment states “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of the free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. This is the pinnacle of the gun control debate. It’s rather a tradition to have the right to own a gun and people fear what could happen if they lose the right to own that said gun. Yet, stopping the senseless killing that takes place during a mass shooting should stand up against tradition to promote change to avoid this from continuing. Do people really need to keep a gun ‘just in case’ when this allows the risk of very serious and more frequent mass shootings to happen?
Everytown is a movement in the US which advocates for ‘common-sense’ gun control laws stating on their website, “Everytown is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities”. They have and still are publicly addressing the effects of owning a gun and are trying to improve daily American life so it doesn’t have to mean you need a gun. One of their key demands is to update background checks as it's been 25 years since they first came into place. They state, “it’s time to require background checks on all gun sales – not just brick and mortar stores, but all the places they are sold today”. An update on these laws would make it harder for criminals and unstable people to get their hands on these weapons at places like gun shows and online where currently no background checks are legally required. You can discover more information about their mission to end gun violence of all kinds by visiting their website.
Pictured Bernie Sanders, photo credit: Fox News
What about the UK then, is it better off without guns? Yes, of course. The UK is one of the strictest developed countries when it comes to controlling guns, however, we are facing our own battles. Although many stand preaching that it’s the greatest country and the US should ban all guns, those preaching should also know that there were 43,516 knife crime offenses in the UK from March 2018-19 and 4,451 of those cautioned, reprimanded or convicted for carrying a knife were under the age of 18. The UK is facing a crime wave of its own.
This is where the perspective comes into place. The majority of Americans who own guns aren’t carrying them with them wherever they go, just like the majority of British people aren’t carrying knives with them. They’re what people use as self-defence, but the way we look at each object (for good reason) is completely different. Every UK household contains a knife however not everyone would use it as a weapon, whereas in the US a gun is a weapon it is intended to shoot, harm and kill. This is why gun control is strongly fought for as when they get into the wrong hands they can cause indescribable damage to lives.
The American Constitution containing their 27 amendments was written into law in 1789. To remove any of those laws would be a sense of loss to many Americans who value them as a way to protect their daily lives. So to remove the second amendment is considered near enough impossible, what people are actively protesting for is to make it harder for people to get their hands on guns to ensure that terror attacks like mass shootings can be put to a stop.
Whilst the debate rages on, people continue to lose their lives to domestic terrorism. At least 31 lost their lives over this past weekend in El Paso and Dayton. These were people just going about their lives - their god-given freedom is to do just that. And that’s all the perspective we need. Tighter regulations need to put in place. Politicians can no longer continue to send their thoughts and prayers to the deceased and the survivors. They need to send a change in the law.