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Monday, December 17, 2012

When enough is enough.

You cannot have failed to have heard about it. Have seen the images of primary school children being led away from their school, the images of a normally stoic and self controlled President of the United States visibly shaken and barely able to hold it together. The images of twenty happy smiling faces whose lives should have just been getting started, the image of six adults who gave their lives so that fewer of their charges would lose theirs, the image of a mother who kept a veritable arsenal of weaponary in her home and taught her children how to use them, the image of a disturbed young man who wiped out 27 lives including his own.

On Friday the 14th December, a young man, now formally identified as Adam Lanzda, got his hands on his mother's legally owned and registered firearms, shot his mother and headed to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Here he used a high powered rifle to murder twenty children between the ages of six and seven and a further five adults before turning one of the guns on himself.

Since then the rhetoric has been endless. Those who favour gun control have argued that surely this event, the last in a long line of similar massacres and one of several just in the last twelve months, should lead to increased legislations, those who favour 'packing heat' have given the usual barrage of excuses. They have blamed lone sufferers of mental illness, they have claimed that they need their weapons for self defence, that they like to hunt (and given the nature of some of the high calibre assualt rifles and various other semi automatics that are readily and freely available in the US one can't help but wonder what exactly they are hunting. Orcs? Dragons? T-Rex?), that people who want to break the law still will. And on and on and on. Excuse after excuse after excuse.

Because that is all that they are. Excuses. Nobody needs to own a firearm. If people want to hunt then they should have to join registered hunting clubs where all weaponary is checked out and returned to a centralised armourary. The self defence excuse doesn't fly because countries that have stringent gun control have fewer instances of gun crime and so the need to defend yourself against an assailant carrying a firearm is much depleted. Also, one needs to bear in mind that we are not talking about people owning a small calibre pistol, which feasibly might be a defence measure, we are talking about people owning multiple weapons, assault rifles, thousands upon thousands of rounds of ammunition. Unless you're house is surrounding by ravening hordes of zombies, just who or what exactly are you defending yourself from?

The only excuse given thus far that carries even a modicum of credibility is the issue of mental illness. Now, not all perpetrators of gun crime suffer from a mental illness that seriously impairs their ability to judge and moderate their actions, but some do (James Holmes the assailant in the Aurora Cinema attack being an notable example) and there are some serious issues with regards to the treatment and identification of mental illness to be raised from such incidents. However, to even attempt to make these incidents about mental illness is a gross over simplification and misses the bigger picture. Yes, mental illness is a horrible, isolating and debilitating thing to suffer from and it deserves its own forum, but, and this is a big but, it is not the mental illness but the easy acquisition of firearms that is the issue at play. Of course people suffering mental illness that do not have access to firearms do go out and commit violence against both others and themselves, but the scope for destruction is radically decreased. Had Lanza walked into that school armed with any weapon other than firearms would 27 people be dead today? It is unlikely. Without access to firearms would men like Lanza even attempt these act, for the most part, I again, think not. Even in incidents where mental illness (and by this I'm generally excluding pyschopathy) there is a huge difference between the detachment of shooting strangers and the act of physically attacking them in a more up close and personal way.

In short, with stricter gun control, without people claiming their constitutional rights to keep weapons that are made for no reason other than death in their homes, without people claiming that schools should have armed guards or that more civilians should be armed, without people being able to stock pile assault weapons in preparation for the 'end of days' , without people claiming 'guns don't kill people, people do' (which whilst undeniably true ignores the fact that it make it a hell of a lot easier), would have saved dozens of lives (possibly hundreds and maybe even thousands if we factor in all gun related deaths in the US) just this year. Tighter gun control would mean that first responders at Virgina Tech would not have had to endure the horror of listening to cell phones going of in the pockets of dead students as their anxious, desperate families tried to reach them to see if they were ok, 12 people's fun night out at the cinema wouldn't have cost them their lives and there wouldn't be 20 Christmas Trees in Newtown, CT with Christmas presents sitting under them that will never be opened...

Thus far the NRA and other major gun lobbyists have kept a low profile and those gun enthusiasts who have spoken out have been unable to offer anything more useful than that schools should have armed guards and metal detectors. And these people seem to miss the point, the 'thin end of the wedge' situation that they are creating.

Why people are so attached to their guns I do not know, as someone who grew up in a country with stringent gun control its not a mentality I understand. Maybe its fear, maybe it makes them feel more important, maybe they are purely constitutional pedants, but the fact of the matter is that the current gun laws across the US are simply not fit for purpose and people are dying as a result.  And I will say this and I believe it wholeheartedly, those Americans who believe in loose gun control and the availability of automatic weapons are complicit in these acts. Every excuse that the pro gun contingent make is a spot of blood on their hands. Every person that cites their Second Amendment rights is in some small way culpable. You have placed a higher value on a piece of metal than on the lives of your children and there is no condoning this.

If you live in the US and want to help bring about the tighter gun control that could save lives there are a few things you can do.

1. Get in touch with politicians at a federal, state and local level. Ask them their views on gun control, tell them yours. Make them accountable
2. Don't vote for candidates that accept money from the NRA or other gun lobbyist
3. Get involved in  One Million Children March on D.C
4. Be engaged, talk about it, tweet about it. Keep it front and centre.

Finally, I'd like to take a moment to remember those children who won't be going to bed on Christmas eve filled with excitement at the prospect of the following day, who won't have graduations and weddings and children of their own. I'd like to take a moment to remember the adults who died trying to protect them and a moment to remember those families, hundreds and hundreds of them through the years, who have huge holes in their lives where their loved ones should be simply so gun enthusiasts can keep their weapons of death.

This blog is dedicated to the memory  of
Emilie Parker Age 6
Lauren Rousseau Age 30
Ana Marquez-Green Age 6
Dawn Hochsprung
Noah Pozner Age 6
Mary Sherlach
Jesse Lewis Age 6
Avielle Richman Age 6
Caroline Previdi Age 6
Nancy Lanza
Catherine Hubbard Age 6
Charlotte Bacon Age 6
Chase Kowalski Age 7
Daniel Barden Age 7
Dylan Hockley Age 6
Anne Marie Murphy Age 52
Jessica Rekos Age 6
Josephine Gay Age 7
James Mattioli  Age 6
Olivia Engel Age 6
Victoria Soto Age 27