Unless you’ve had your head up an Ostrich’s arse (have I got that analogy a bit skew?), you will know that the US have some seriously cocked-up gun laws – i.e. having a gun readily available or even in your handbag is pretty normal for every Tom, Dick, Randy, Chuck and Harry. There are some truly heinous manifestations of these dickbrain laws, the most recent of which include:
– Last week’s discovery of a man in his dorm at University of Central Florida, Orlando. He was dead by self-inflicted gunshot wound but with him were four home made bombs, a handgun, a tactical assault rifle and 1000 rounds of ammunition. A plan to press an alarm and open fire on evacuating students was also found. A plan that would have been put into action had his room-mate not called 911. The arrival of the police meant that the madman executed not his plan but himself.
– The deaths of 28 people, including 20 small children, were shot dead by a gunman carrying 4 weapons at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut. I will not give the fuckwit gunman any post-humous (he turned the gun on himself as police arrived) satisfaction by naming him or showing his weird-arse fugly face but it turns out he had been plotting the massacre for years and collected articles about other mass shootings. He also shot his mother before leaving for Sandy Hook School. E.Vil.
– Last year’s Colorado cinema shooting in which a gun man shot 12 people dead and injured 58. Had his semi automatic weapon not jammed, it is almost certain that more lives would have been lost. The perpetrator owned an array of weapons and had with him 1,000’s of rounds of ammunition.
This is just the recent ones. Two thirds of all murders in America involve guns; last year alone guns claimed 9,000 lives in cold blood. Each year in the US, around 30,000 people die as a result of gunshot wounds.
Yoko Ono recently and poignantly tweeted her support of tighter gun laws. The tweet was illustrated with a photo of Lennon’s glasses, smeared with blood and captioned: “Over 1,057,000 people have been killed by guns in the USA since John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980.” And you’d think that the tragic demise of the genius who wrote “Imagine” would have stopped the madness once and for all.
Regardless of who the perpetrators are or why they committed such unthinkable crimes, the question has to be – and is being – asked, why are these horrific gun-toting, cold-blooded massacres happening in the US so regularly? Why are guns so freely available?
How Freely Available?
Each state is different but basically any law-abiding citizen over 18 is allowed to buy a gun. In Colorado, Kansas and Louisiana, you don’t need a permit to get yourself a gun. Yep, you just mozie on in, ask, show proof of age and pay. In Arizona you can legally carry a concealed weapon. What for – oh, yep of course, just in case some other bugger is carrying a concealed weapon and decides to pull it on you, you can pop yours out and have a gun fight in the street.
NYC is now one of the hardest places to buy weapons – you have to apply for a permit and the licensing authority may order you to do firearms training and education. The authority can also decide the conditions under which permit holders can possess handguns or carry a concealed weapon.
However, the firearm industry can go largely unregulated because there is a loophole that allows gun owners to sell their firearms to an unlicensed person in the same state. Plus there is always the online option – the Florida University would-be gunman bought his military-standard weapons online for $700 with no federal regulation whatsoever. And while ammunition purchases are restricted in most states, transactions are not recorded so any old maniac can just shop-hop to get the amount they think they need.
In 2007, 270 million of 317 million people owned civilian firearms.
So what’s with the gun culture?
Well waaay back in 1791, an amendment was made to the US Constitution in response to a war of independence where citizens were compelled to revolt against an oppressive state. It is now known as the 2nd Amendment. It is this:
“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.”
Which means, in my terms, that an armed population will be safe from any bugger thinking he or she might become a tyrannical dictator, that loose gun laws will keep the government in the hands of the people.
Those who still believe in the 2nd amendment evidently believe that the risk of tyranny at the hands of rulers is very real and that politicians who take an anti-2nd amendment stance have tyrannical motives. Their response to the Newtown tragedy was to suggest that armed security guards be placed in schools. Eeek, paranoid people with guns.
In 1871, the National Rifle Association (NRA) was founded “to promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis”. WTF is scientific shooting? Rhetorical question ‘cos I can’t answer that one.
Why hasn’t the amendment been amended into oblivion?
Well the NRA and the belief in the 2nd amendment has over the centuries become very powerful, to the extent that the right to bear arms is utterly ingrained in a large portion of the US population. This means that any political candidate to voice anti-2nd amendment beliefs would be facing certain death at the polls. For last year’s presidential election, neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama made gun control a priority in their campaigns.
The NRA is very wealthy and – as is the way – money translates to power. They – together with other poxy pro-gun groups like the Gun Owners of America (GOA) have the power to mobilise voters and politicians to stand firm behind the 2nd amendment and rail against the anti-gun lobby groups. They use arguments like “Americans are the most free people in the world because of the 2nd amendment”. Right, also the people most likely in the western world to get popped in the head just by going to school.
In 1994, a 10 year ban was placed on possession of magazines holding more that 10 rounds of ammunition. In 2004, congress allowed it to expire. In 2008 a handgun ban enforced in Washington was dismissed.
Is anything being done now?
Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York, has just yesterday announced he will put $12 million of his own money (blimey it pays to be mayor) toward a TV advertising campaign for tougher gun control laws in the hopes to get voters to back more comprehensive background checks on gun buyers. Congress will be voting on the issue very soon. Pro-gun control lobbyists claim that 92% of the population support detailed background checks and that the NRA’s arguments consist of scaremongery and conspiracy theories.
Last week – 8 months after the cinema massacre – Colorado changed its gun laws to include mandatory background checks as well as a limit on magazine capacity to 15 rounds or less. Already there is noisy opposition to this, and 2 ballot measures have been tabled to undo the new restrictions.
On 16 January of this year, in response to the Sandy Hook School shooting, President Obama announced plans for improved gun control. His proposal—demanding background checks for all gun sales (not just those from licensed dealers) and a new ban on assault weapons—would need new laws passed by congress, where Republicans (traditionally more gun happy than democrats) have a majority. Already the renewed ban on assault weapons has been dropped because of lack of support. Piss weak if you ask me.
So even if the President waxes lyrical about change – and even if he means it – he alone can’t make it happen. In the US, love for arms and the “God given” right to self defence by fire power is deeply rooted into society. And deepy rooted. Period.
Post script: Given that I live a half hour drive from Port Arthur, the scene of the world’s largest gun massacre by a single person, I want to make it clear that I know too well that people are capable of these terrible crimes anywhere, even here in the sleepy peaceful place so dear to my heart. But the difference is that here in Australia, while our politicians had long chucked stricter gun laws rhetoric about but didn’t act for fear of electoral backlash from the gun lobby, we ended up with a leader who evidently didn’t give a shit about political ripples or even threats of violence. In 1996 Prime Minister John Howard brought the states and territories together and cut a deal for stronger, nationally uniform firearm reform. Since then, a study by Harvard University on the impact of our reforms concluded that, “”The National Firearms Agreement seems to have been incredibly successful in terms of lives saved.” That is, we’ve had no gun massacres (more than 4 people die in one rampage) since 1996, compared with 13 massacres during the previous 18 years. In the early 1990s, about 600 Australians a year were killed by gunfire; that figure is now fewer than 250.
SO GUN REFORM WORKS DERRRBRAINS.
Tags: American gun laws, assault weapons, Barack Obama, Colorado cinema shooting, firearms, gun control, gun culture, gun debate, Gun Owners of America, guns, John Howard, Mayor Bloomberg, National Rifle Association, Newtown Massacre, NRA, Port Arthur, Sandy Hook School, second amendment, University of Central Florida, US gun laws