In December 2012, a man walked into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and murdered 26 people (20 of them children). As is the custom when an event like this occurs in America, the American people were treated to an array of statements from politicians declaring that their thoughts and prayers were with the families of the victims. However, any attempt to introduce measures to control access to certain types of firearms was fiercely resisted and eventually defeated. Hell, we even got treated to a raft of conspiracy theories stating that the attack was a “false flag” event designed to take guns away from Americans.
Last month, a man opened fire on a crowd of concert goers in Las Vegas, eventually killing 59 people and wounding several hundred more. Once again, the American people were treated to the “thoughts and prayers” brigade, and also told, “This is not the time to talk about gun control.” This was the act of a single madman, a lone wolf, a mentally disturbed and deranged individual.
On Sunday, a man walked into a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas with an assault rifle and opened fire. By the time his rampage was done, 27 people lay dead and numerous other lives had been shattered forever. As per usual, the victims and their families got thoughts and prayers and, “This is not the time to talk about gun control.” Soon, someone from the NRA will say something along the lines of, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
Now, we’ve all heard these lines, or some variation of them many times. The implication being that guns are not in and of themselves inherently dangerous, accompanied by some meaningless vibrations on the wind. Accordingly, whenever a bunch of innocent people get murdered by a madman with a gun there is fierce pushback against any idea that placing guns within easy reach of shall we say, persons lacking a certain amount of self-control, is a pretty fucking stupid way to live.
I’ve always found this attitude to be quite disingenuous. You see, in the UK, there was a spate of knife crimes, stabbings and what not. Of course, a knife isn’t going to leap up and stab someone on its lonesome, it needs to be wielded by someone. So, the UK did what any sensible government does when something otherwise mundane becomes weaponised: it banned the acquisition of certain knives by any person below the age of 18 and required ID for purchases. There was no hand-wringing or thoughts and prayers-ing. Nobody said “knives don’t kill people” or any other inane nonsense. They just took action to tighten a loophole and keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. In fact, having recognised that people could and did sidestep the regulations by buying knives online, the government recently introduced new rules to make it mandatory for knives purchased online to be picked up in person, at which point, ID would have to be shown. It is also the responsibility of the seller to check the ID to avoid liability for selling a knife to an underage person. Now, is the system perfect? No, of course not. Will people find ways around it? Yes, because people are people and it’s pretty hard to find someone craftier than a person looking for a way to bend or break a rule. However, and this is the crucial point, it is far better than doing sweet fuck all.
Now, our American brothers from El Norte, might interject here that nobody in the UK has a constitutional right to carry a knife, and they would be totally right. However, the thing about rights is that there are always reasonable limits on how those rights are exercised. For instance, you have freedom of speech, but you can’t scream, “FIRE!” in a crowded theatre. You have the right to assemble freely, but you can’t establish a collective of lawbreakers, aka a “crime family.” You have the right to freedom of movement, but you’re not allowed to drive your car through someone’s house. You have the right to freedom of religion, but you can’t decide to worship Cthulhu via the ritual sacrifice of young virgins. Clearly then, all constitutionally guaranteed freedoms have controls, and it is the height of laziness to insist otherwise. Or perhaps just the height of cruelty.
The simple fact of the matter is, unless and until common sense controls are introduced to the right to bear arms in the US of A, common sense controls which are adaptable and respond to challenges and the inevitable instinct of people to try to go around them, the platitudes offered by their leaders after every atrocity are about as useful as prayers to Cthulhu.