Gun Ownership And Gun Control: A Very American Problem?

Another sad gun control incident to add to add to the growing list was the twenty-six people that died during yet another school shooting incident in America. This time it was in Connecticut on Friday 14th December 2012.

A young man entered the school and launched fire. He intended to kill, which was documented by the hundreds of bullets found at the place of the tragedy. This sad incident led to worldwide public outrage even though, unfortunately, it is a recurring problem at American schools. But why?

At the risk of sounding like some religious nut, my opinion on the Newtown, and indeed any other such incident in the USA is in strong alignment with the “live by the gun, die by the gun” adage. Gun ownership is written into the US constitution. Consequently, the USA has the largest statistics of gun related crimes anywhere in the developed world.

There clearly is a strong correlation between gun ownership and the number of gun related incidents. Contrast this with the UK, where gun ownership was completely banned in 1997. Gun massacres in the UK are almost non-existent.

One of the arguments for gun ownership is that of self defence- i.e. that we should carry a gun as protection against attackers or criminals. I think this argument is flawed when applied to today’s society. Violence is pretty much wherever we turn – from movies, to computer games, and regularly on our television screens.

By encouraging gun ownership, we are encouraging opportunities for violence, not reducing it. Violence begets more violence. Give people guns and they are likely to use it. Yes they might use it to protect, but they can also use it to attack. The incidences of school shootings is evidence of the latter, and unfortunately it is becoming depressingly frequent. Just one day after the Newton massacre, another gunman shot at firefighters in New York in another unprovoked attack while they were on duty.

I find it difficult to accept that the majority of Americans do not see a problem with the current gun control law, when it is clearly not working. To add insult to injury, pro-gun lobbyists actually use the terrible massacres to further their pro-gun stance. For example, the National Rifle Association, one of the strongest lobby groups, wants to have armed guards posted at every school. Its president even declared that:

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

I think that even the well trained gunman would not be able to completely prevent somebody intent on committing a massacre. In the best case scenario, marksmen can fight back, and even save some lives. But they cannot save everyone. The worst case scenario is more worrying; a “good guy” with a gun can escalate the situation from a lone shooter to a dangerous exchange of gunfire between the “bad guy” and the “good guys”, putting more lives at risk.

In general, the problem of gun control calls for complex changes, which will require more than simply changing the law. We must look deeper into what causes certain people to react with such violence in the first place, and not allow guns to be used as an enabler for such acts of violence. I know that cultural change cannot come at once, but the government needs to lead with the right legislation to better facilitate positive change.

Overall, I believe the arguments for gun ownership are not convincing. Indeed, could there ever be a convincing reason for widespread gun ownership in modern civil society?

Ike Williams is a creative soul who has written plays, directed, and produced TV documentaries. He has also written his first book The Blessed Evil, which has a curious perspective on the age old war between good and evil. You can read get a free sample of the book here.

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