How many times do we have to hear of another massacre by a lone gunman using a semi-automatic weapon in America? In December 2012, ten days before Christmas, the ‘Sandy Hook’ gun massacre took place in a primary school in Connecticut. Twenty-six people died, including twenty children aged under seven. On the 20th July 2012, during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, twelve were killed and seventy were wounded. On the 17th June 2015 at 8pm during a prayer meeting in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, nine people were shot dead. On the 23rd July 2015 at the Grand Theatre in Louisiana, twenty minutes into the screening of Trainwreck, two were killed and nine were wounded. Amy Schumer, one of the lead actors, commented that “my heart is broken and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Louisiana”. Finally, the most recent being on 26th August at 6:46am: two reporters, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, were shot by an ex-colleague during a live broadcast in Virginia.All of these incidents make us question why the USA continues to tolerate these atrocities, and allow these guns to be so freely available.
The 1789 Bill of Rights from the 2nd Amendment is often used in this argument, which states that all American citizens have the right to ‘bear arms’. However, at the time it was written, guns were used for protection and hunting for food. The National Rifle Association (NRA) founded in 1871 was primarily a gun club, which taught people how to use a gun safely. It is now the third most influential lobbying group in Washington and a leading political organisation, giving them a voice. The NRA wants no further gun control in America as it will protect the 2nd Amendment at all costs. The members of the NRA also believe that allowing citizens to keep guns reduces the crime rate. Their view is that the the “bad people” will be controlled, as it is the people, not the guns, that kill. In response to the massacre in Connecticut, the NRA stated that all teachers should be armed and all schools should have armed guards.
In contrast, many Americans want to have more consistent gun control. At the moment all fifty-two states have different gun laws. For example, some states require you to possess a licence to own a gun; the method of obtaining a licence varies; and a gun can range from a handgun to a machine gun. Americans arguing for gun control want the sale and possession of semi-automatic weapons to be outlawed; a license to be mandatory; and to enforce much stricter background checks on individuals before a gun-holder licence is granted. However, the majority of American citizens want to keep the 2nd Amendment and uphold the civil right of being able to protect oneself with the security of a gun.
Looking from the outside, I believe that owning a gun should be very strictly controlled and not seen as a right. It is stating the obvious that society and technology is very different nowadays than it was in 1789! To put this into historical context, the 2nd Amendment was more than 50 years before California became US territory. Furthermore, the single shot musket, the more primitive gun of that time, has been replaced by a semi-automatic weapon, that kills many lives in an instant. Other countries have introduced gun controls, such as Australia in 1996, which banned the sale and ownership of semi automatic weapons, resulting in a reduction in incidents.
The USA is a divided nation concerning this topic, but, incredulously it appears that the overall will to confront this issue is absent. President Obama recently acknowledged that it will be the unfinished business of his presidency. “The issue of guns, that is an area where if you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws.” - Barack Obama, 24th July 2015.
Original Image by Elizaveta Alexandrovna