Question America’s Gun Control

USA Gun Control: Forget upping security, it’s the culture that needs to change

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Hearing the awful news of the Aurora shootings was shocking, but it wasn’t exceptional. Since 2000, there have been over 70 cases of school shootings in North America, the most famous being the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007 where 32 people were killed and most recently, the Oikos University Shooting in California where seven people were shot dead by a 43 year old former student of the University wielding a 45 Caliber semi-automatic handgun. Back in 2007, after the Virginia Tech shooting, a statement was released by The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, saying that it was too easy for an individual to get powerful weapons and called for increased gun control measures.

It seems, however, that not much has changed and it is still easy enough for members of the public to get hold of guns. The Brady Campaign was founded by Jim Brady, former assistant to President Reagan, who was nearly killed after being caught up in an assassination attempt on Reagan in 1981. Not long after Jim was gunned down, his wife Sarah was once again shocked by the culture of guns in the US when her six-year-old son Scott found what he thought was a toy gun in a relative’s pickup truck. It was not a toy – it was a fully loaded handgun, just like the one used to shoot her husband. She and Jim knew the National Rifle Association bore heavy responsibility for the easy availability of guns like the one that seriously injured Jim and threatened their son’s life. Their website states “They knew they had to fight back to keep the NRA from running roughshod over [America’s] gun laws. Ever since, Jim and Sarah Brady have led the organization and committed themselves to the fight to end gun violence.”

This campaign is still fighting for stringent control on guns in the US. However, America seems more concerned with how to prevent another similar cinema attack than the real problem: freely available guns. The National Association of Theater Owners distributed checklists from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to its members, and said in a July 21 statement that members were “working closely with local law enforcement agencies and reviewing security procedures.” AMC Theatres announced that it would “not allow any guests into our theatres in costumes that make other guests feel uncomfortable and we will not permit face-covering masks or fake weapons inside our buildings.” A lawsuit was filed in response to the shooting charging the Aurora theatre for being negligent in not having a guard or alarm on the emergency exit. The problem is that these horrific events are merely a symptom of a way of American thinking. If you allow something as powerful and lethal as a gun to be sold to any Tom, Dick and Harry then they will fall into the hands of people like Holmes, the 24 year old who opened fire at the Aurora Theatre. In fact, Holmes bought a series of guns. On May 22 he purchased a .40-caliber Glock pistol, and six days later a Remington Model 870 shotgun in Denver. On June 7, just hours after failing his oral exam at the university, he purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle, with a second .40-caliber Glock pistol on July 6. All the weapons were bought legally. According to Wikipedia, in the four months prior to the shooting, Holmes also bought ‘3000 rounds of ammunition for the pistols, 3000 rounds for the M&P15, and 350 shells for the shotgun over the internet.’

Making new rules for cinemas is neither here nor there, because although this was Holmes’ place of choice to wreak havoc, it could have been anywhere. And the argument that the National Rifle Association has that restricting access to guns causes more crime (because then only criminals will have guns) is not supported by evidence at a national level. In countries where guns are greatly restricted, such as Great Britain or Japan, deaths from guns are very rare, especially compared to the United States. In fact, the USA is a world leader in the rate of homicides from guns.

As Andy Ostroy of the Huffington Post wrote, “We can stick our collective heads in the sand and “come together” to talk about God, prayer, healing and sing Kumbaya, but none of that — let me repeat…none of that — will stop the blood from spilling again. Have we learned nothing in the past thirteen years from the deadly massacres at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tuscon, etc?”

What needs to change is the American way of thinking. Mitt Romney said, “A lot of what this young man did was clearly against the law. But the fact that it was against the law did not prevent it from happening.” Yes, a lot of what Holmes did was against the law, but the one thing that wasn’t was his purchasing of guns. Guns aren’t necessary in a civilised society as we ourselves can attest to, and the startling number of mass shootings in the US proves the danger of a rifle if it falls into the wrong hands. And sadly, this isn’t an infrequent occurrence.