Will the US ever learn? It needs to confront its gun problem


Another mass shooting has hit the United States, in Las Vegas, and it’s the worst in modern history – but why is this still allowed to happen, and why does nothing ever change?

The US is home to 88 guns for every 100 people and sees mass shootings more than 11 times as often as any other developed country – according to a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences. With less than 5% of the world’s population, the United States is home to roughly 35–50% of the world’s civilian-owned guns, according to the Small Arms Survey from 2007.

More than 100,000 people are shot every year in the United States, more than $2.8 billion is spent annually treating gunshot victims, and Americans overall are “25 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than people in other developed countries”.

There has been a 38% increase in the total number of guns owned in the United States since 1994.

On Monday, Democrats in the Senate and House called for universal background checks on gun purchases and a commission to research gun violence prevention. But it seems inevitable that as always after a horrific mass shooting, nothing will be done. The argument of constitution always seems to win.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

This amendment was written in a time when a militia could be argued as a necessity to protect towns from the threats they faced. But the weapons of today, that are easily accessible, are vastly different than anything that existed in 1791 – most guns only contained one bullet. In the age of semi-automatic rifles and machine guns the dangers of such easily available weapons getting into the wrong hands could not be clear enough.

What is the purpose of such weapons? Such weapons are useless in sport, they play no role in hunting, and they protect no one from a tyrannical government – they are simply designed for mass slaughter, nothing else. Even if there is an argument for allowing citizens to carry a handgun for protection, there can be no argument for such weapons of mass murder being available to the public.

The second amendment is outdated, and the insistence that it cannot ever be changed is a threat to liberty and a suicide downright pact. Every country has its psychopaths, in America, they can easily access lethal weapons.

With Donald Trump in power, nothing is likely to change – despite the outcry for tighter gun legislation. He is cosy with the NRA (National Rifle Association), who insist that their freedom to bear arms is of utmost importance and that restricting their freedom would be a violation of basic rights.

In April, Trump called himself “a true friend and champion” of the lobbying group. “No longer will the government be trying to undermine your rights and your freedoms as Americans,” the president said at an annual NRA conference. “Instead, we will work with you, by your side.”

An American gun shop. Image: Michael Saechang

Surprisingly, as with the arms trade which keeps war popular, there is big money in personal arms sales – money speaks.

We must also stop to reflect upon the fact that mass murder committed by white citizens is not subject to the same kind of outrage as attacks by Muslims (or foreigners who may have come from majority Muslim countries). White male attackers are described as a “lone wolf” or “mentally unstable” by the media, even before any investigation has even begun to find any evidence of the attackers’ motives. Muslim’s, and people of other races, are in the same way instantly described as “terrorists” without any evidence to scrutinise otherwise.

After such attacks there is certainly not such moral outrage, our deep concern for public safety stirred up by those who defend the second amendment as there is when extreme attacks are committed by people of alleged Islamic faith.

One thing is clear about these “lone wolves”: These are not terrorists. They can’t be. You know what a terrorist looks like.

Stephen Paddock’s whiteness has already afforded him many outrageous protections in the media. Many would almost without thinking say that when a white individual commits such an atrocity, it must be because they are mentally unstable. When an individual claiming to be a Muslim commits a horrible act, many will tell us Islam itself is the problem. It’s almost conditioned into people.

The liberty of being able to go out and live your life, without fear of such attacks and potential murder, is more important than the liberty afforded to you by being able to keep such deadly weapons. If only the United States would realise this.

For now, we will mourn, until next time: and there will be a next time – because we’re told we cannot talk about politics and potential gun controls after such an event, and so nothing ever changes, and we must just accept the inevitable.

This is a national sickness, an insanity, one that no other developed country in the world suffers from – get well soon America.