Guns don’t kill people. People do.
Has there ever, in the history of the world, been a stupider political slogan than this?
Yet, in the United States, thousands of innocent people have died as a result of the slogan. Thousands more may die yet.
Ask any child and they will tell you: of course, guns alone don’t kill people. People with guns do. And they are far more likely to be killed by people if guns are in plentiful supply. As they are in the United States, which is why FAR FAR more Americans are killed this way, than in nations with gun control.
38,000 Americans are killed by guns every year.
0.25 people in the UK out of every 100,000 people in the population are killed in firearm related deaths every year.
9.20 people in the US out of every 100,000 people in the population are killed in firearm related deaths every year.
This is nearly 37 times as high.
I do not wish to make light of the massacre at Newtown, Connecticut last week which was genuinely appalling. The one silver lining seems to be that it has provided a new appetite for new gun control legislation not seen in the US since the Clinton years.
Bill Clinton, is in fact, the only recent US president to emerge with any credit on this issue. Before the powerful gun control lobby got its pernicious claws into public opinion, most Americans favoured gun control legislation. Even before the recent massacre, public opinion still favoured the introduction of tougher restrictions on gun ownership than are currently in place.
Obama did nothing about this in his first term and remained silent when the Aurora massacre occurred during the election campaign. In his defence, starting a row on the subject in the summer would have been unlikely to have productive. It would not have resulted in any legislation at that stage of the electoral cycle. Indeed, it may well have handed the White House to Governor Mitt Romney (remember him?) and thus pushed gun control off the agenda until at least 2017.
In the meantime, we must consider the validity of the anti-gun control arguments. If there is a good argument against gun control, I’ve yet to hear it:
a) The “gun control doesn’t work” argument: Er… yes, it does! Look at Britain. The figures are not explicable either by the US’s higher population or by any other social difference.
b) The historic right to bear arms” argument: Please be serious. Anyone with a facet of common sense can see this was meant to apply to armed militias in the 18th century War of Independence before Americans even had a standing army. It wasn’t intended to be used to justify massacres in schools. If a law is stupid as in the case of Britain’s fox hunting laws or as in the case of slavery in the UK and the US: change the law. Who cares how historic it is if the law is wrong now?
c) The “government takeover” argument: Usually phrased as: would you rather the government and military had all the guns then? As in, would I rather trained professionals with no history at all of turning their guns on the population had the guns or some high school kid?
d) The “gun control is socialist” argument: Is it? I’m not sure it is actually. Does it really matter is it? Would you rather more innocent children were massacred in the meantime? If so, perhaps you should consider re-evaluating your priorities.
e) The “kill all be killed” argument: Popular after the cinema massacre: if everyone is armed, everyone can defend themselves! Brilliant. Leaving aside, this envisages a horrendous nightmare scenario in which nobody can even go for a quiet trip to the cinema without the prospect of becoming involved in gunplay it hardly applies to Newtown. Unless you really believe nine year old children should be trained to defend themselves?
To his credit, President Obama has now made a solid pledge to ban assault weapons. The US political jungle is a tricky one to navigate. We must all hope he succeeds. If he does so, he may yet prove a great president.