I’m not really in the habit of pouring my heart out on the internet. Frankly, I’ve never really felt that I had anything particularly important to say. However, yesterday’s events have made me rethink that a little bit. I do have something to say, and whilst it is not anything that has not been said before, I hope that in the wake of this tragedy, those in a position to make change happen may decide that now is the time to listen.
Yesterday morning, twenty children and eight adults lost their lives. A young man, named by US media as Adam Lanza, entered an elementary school and opened fire on the students and staff, before turning his weapon on himself. I know nothing about him: nothing about his motives, state of mind or mental health. What I do know is that this twenty year old boy had access to three guns. I am a few years older than him, and live in a nation where we do not have the ‘right to bear arms’. I have never touched a gun. The only guns that I have seen have been on the hips of airport policemen. I have never seen a gun pointed at anyone or anything. Yet this individual could pick up three without even leaving his home.
Those who believe in the right to bear arms claim that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. The second part of this statement is wholly correct. People carry out the actions. But a gun is the bridge between thinking a murderous thought and being able to see it through.
Guns remove the contact from killing. They make it easy. Of course there are a thousand ways to hurt or kill someone without using a gun, but they mostly require either physical strength or forward planning. And I can think of very few ways which would allow the perpetrator to harm so many people in such a short period of time.
People say that those who would use guns for criminal purposes are, on the whole criminals, and would find a way to obtain a firearm, regardless of whether or not it is legal. I don’t doubt that there are those who could, but I think that it is highly naive to assume that the only people who would do harm with a gun are criminals. A gun is a lethal weapon in anybody’s hand. Having guns in homes is to invite that danger over the threshold and offer it dinner.
Homes are where families live. Homes are full of more emotion than almost any other venue, and whilst families have the capacity to love each other fiercely, this strength of emotion can give rise to equally fierce disagreements. How many of us have screamed, cried and shouted at our families? It is normal to disagree, and arguments are not always pretty. Throw a gun into the mix and the letting off of steam becomes a potentially deadly situation. A moment in which one person loses control becomes the same moment in which someone loses their life.
Homes are also where we raise our children. It cannot be right that an item whose sole purpose is to cause harm to another living being resides in the same place as a small child. The argument is that anyone of sound mind will keep a firearm securely locked away. This is an entirely individual matter. We cannot know where every gun owner keeps his or her weapon. Accidents happen. Children are exceptionally talented at finding ways to be where they should not be.
One of the most popular arguments in favour of the right to carry a gun is the need to defend oneself. Against what? I would argue, against other people with guns. Take the guns away and half of the danger is also removed. Yes, there will still be people in the world who want to hurt others, and who will find ways. But if anyone may have a gun, then anyone can become a killer. The typical scenario used in this argument is the home invasion. At the moment, the prospective burglar can buy and pay for his gun, entirely legally. So can the home owner whose property he plans to steal from. In a situation in which the home owner surprises the burglar, both sides are armed, in a highly tense and volatile situation. Either party may fatally harm the other. In the same situation, without guns, any harm caused must be through much more physical, personal means. Whilst a scared or angry individual might pull a trigger without too much thought, doing the same damage with say, a knife or a blunt instrument would take a lot more stomach. It would be personal, real, and it is safe to say that the number of people who could go through with such an act is a great deal lower than the number who could fire a gun. Banning the possession of guns will not cancel out every potentially violent or dangerous situation, but it will certainly be a step in the right direction. Fighting guns with guns is rather like fighting fire with fire.
In the end, every discourse on the subject of gun control is usually declared moot due to the American people’s Constitutionally protected ‘right to bear arms’. I have two arguments to put forward on this subject.
Firstly, it must be pointed out that nowhere in the United States Constitution are guns mentioned. The right is ‘to keep and bear arms’. Arms means weapons and ammunition. It does not specify guns.
The Constitution is awarded almost religious significance in the United States. It is the basis for the governmental and legal system upon which the society is founded. It is a hugely valuable document which lays out the laws and values by which the American people live. However it is not infallible. It was written over two hundred years ago, and its aim was to govern a society very different from the one in which we live now. Whilst it is not something to be taken lightly, and the principles upon which it is based are some of the most sound, fair and morally upstanding ever seen in politics, it is impossible to expect that every last word will stand the test of time. The right to bear arms was probably a reasonable concept in 1789. The Constitution was being crafted as the result of a war on home soil. The right to bear arms is referred to in the Bill of Rights as a result of the need to keep a well maintained militia. Normal life was a lot more dangerous. Guns were a lot less dangerous. It simply is not appropriate in this day and age. For this very reason, the Constitution is not set in stone. It CAN be changed. The process is lengthy and complex, and rightly so. It should not be possible to rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America at the drop of a hat. Change should be the result of very careful consideration. However, change should be, and is, possible.
Surely it is time to deal with this ever escalating issue? Twenty young children died yesterday. Eight other lives were needlessly lost. President Obama’s vow to ‘take meaningful action…regardless of the politics’ is promising. Let’s hope that change is on the horizon.
Having had my say, that’s all from me for now. I’ll try to post on a lighter topic next time!