This past week was a huge disappointment for the millions of Americans hoping for gun legislation in the Senate. Senate majority leader Harry Reid decided to exclude the assault weapons ban from comprehensive gun control due to the lack of votes. However, the Obama Administration assures that the President still supports the assault weapons ban and has urged the Senate to vote publicly on the proposal to eliminate “military-style weapons” from the American streets as an amendment.
For those who genuinely believed that the cold-blooded shooting of 20 school children mostly aged 6 in the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012 would be the tipping point for US lawmakers to finally get the wake-up call on establishing responsible and sensible gun laws, this was a shock, to say the least.
What exactly will it take for there to be stricter gun laws in the US? What else needs to happen? How many more innocent people need to get shot either as victims of crimes or due to gun related accidents? Well, according to the Huffington Post’s chilling statistics published on March 22 , 2013 in the ninety eight days following the Sandy Hook shootings, guns have killed at least 2,244 more people due to either homicides or gun related accidents. And yet, there has still not even been an assault weapons ban, let alone any other sensible, humane solutions to this ever growing problem in the United States.
In striking contrast to the United States, Britain has passed responsible and sensible gun laws. It has the strictest gun laws in Europe largely due to killings. British lawmakers took a stand and have achieved what lawmakers in the US simply refuse to do. This occurs most possibly for the combination of reasons somewhere along the lines of a gross misinterpretation of citizens’ rights based on the Second Amendment and a fear of (or political donations accepted from) the National Rifle Association.
It took two mass shootings for Britain to drastically alter its gun laws in order to create a safer society. After the Hungerford massacre of 1987, semi-automatic weapons were banned. Ten years later, handguns were outlawed also after the Dunblane school shootings. The slaughter of sixteen schoolchildren was the turning point in the history of British gun control. There was a profound sentiment of not following the American gun culture pathway. Rightfully so. Britain is not the only European country to tighten up its gun laws after a spree killing. Finland, France, Germany, Portugal and Denmark have all made it tougher to own a firearm in recent years.
No such luck in the US. And contrary to constant opposition to gun control (let’s forget a ban in this lifetime) that British gun laws are not protected by the Second Amendment or that it is a much smaller country with a much lower population, the argument here is not about comparisons of constitutional rights nor population and size. The point is simply one of responsibility and sensible laws which protect society. When children are mercilessly slaughtered by crazed gunmen who have easy access to military-style assault weapons and lawmakers refuse to take a stand against such sheer madness, there is something profoundly wrong, careless and irresponsible with the system. Furthermore, the Second Amendment never ensured the rights to bear and use assault weapons and most certainly never intended to create a society where shootings have become an everyday occurrence. Also, the statistics speak for themselves. In 2009, Britain had 138 gun deaths; in the same year, the U.S. had almost 10,000. The U.S. population is about five times the size of the United Kingdom’s. The message is quite clear.
Britain has diverged from the United States with regards to matters of gun control in ways that many Americans may find intrusive. For instance, the police inspections in many parts of the UK comprise of a police officer visiting the home of a prospective gun license holder to make sure that the gun cabinet is secure. In fact, all throughout Europe, gun ownership is treated as a privilege rather than a right and very strict laws are followed. To go back to the point of laws which may be considered intrusive leading to gun possession in the US, if that is what it takes to save lives, so be it.
To quote Thomas L. Friedman, notable journalist and author:
“In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater.”
So, perhaps the definition of what is considered “pro-life” needs to be re-examined in the United States. Shouldn’t pro-life extend far beyond anti-abortion laws? Why are the US lawmakers just waiting for more Sandy Hook type tragedies to happen?