After Stephen Paddock killed 58 people in Las Vegas and wounded more than 400, another unfortunate mass shooting in the US has yet again brought the ever-important point to moot: if there needs to be tighter gun control laws imposed in the US, and what could be done.
Talks are amidst, with reports suggesting that senators are considering banning bump stocks (the device allowing Paddock to convert his semiautomatic rifles into an automatic fire) and halting the bill which will make it easier for Americans to buy gun silencers; but even though more than one person a day dies due to gun violence in the US[i], Trump quietly revoked Obama’s bill and blocked the Social Security Administration from reporting mentally impaired recipients to a national background-check database.
US civilians own 270 million to 310 million firearms, resulting in around 35% to 42% of US households owning at least one gun , making them the country which has the highest rate of civilian guns and they were not cutting it close: in second place was Yemen (with 55 guns per 100 civilians, where the US have approximately 90 for every 100 civilians). Of course, this also means they have the highest rate of mass shootings. But what can be done?
Get Rid of Guns
What have other countries done to tackle mass shootings? After the 1996 mass shooting in Dunblane which killed 16 young children and a school teacher, the UK [eventually] banned all private hand guns, imposed detailed background checks on gun owners prior to the ban being lawfully imposed and the Government also compensated gun owners; since then, there has only been one mass shooting in the UK.
Post the Port Arthur Massacre, Australia also followed suit, implementing tighter restrictions by banning automatic and semiautomatic firearms, adopting new licensing requirements, and applying a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases. After significantly rising tax, more than 600,000 civilian-owned firearms were bought and destroyed. Since then, no massacres on such a scale have occurred.
Sounds like an easy solution: tighter gun laws and restrictions. An amnesty of guns, albeit a big, costly job, has proven to lessen such tragic events, and so all proponents of tighter gun laws can collectively internally scream as we bang our heads against the walls Trump wishes to build; and we scream: why can’t the US learn from all this?
It is not as simple as it sounds. Firstly, as aforementioned, the US has a lot of guns and a lot of civilians owning these guns. Not only would gaining control over firearms pose quite a challenge, but a huge uproar. Que the: “We have the right to protect ourselves” statements and the fact that the Australian amnesty cost tax-payers [all together] half a billion dollars, which would be a fraction of the cost the US’ attempt of retaining guns, and we can see why an amnesty seem less realistic for the land of the free.
The US is also unique in the sense that they have a Bill stating they have a right to be able to self-defend themselves and citizens are attached to these rights, allowing them to justify their need for guns; so, what if their rights were changed?
Can they change the second amendment?
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
We need not delve into this too deep as it has been debated time and time again. President Trump has made it evidently clear he is a true follower of the Second Amendment and whilst throughout his campaign he would shun Hillary Clinton for threatening to take away citizens’ rights for protection and freedom, we can all silently acknowledge the fact that the NRA endorsed him during his campaign, as they do with 98% of Republicans. To all those that argue this is not a strong enough argument, lest we forget when Trump supported Obama’s remarks, before the hefty endorsement given by his pals at the NRA, for a reformation of the law after the tragic Sandy Hook massacre; “President Obama spoke for me and every American”, Trump said, yet his speech post the Las Vegas shooting was nowhere near such remarks, because his words are now funded by the organisation behind the weaponry used.
The fact is that if opinion does not change, then neither will the Second Amendment; 74% of gun owners say that there is an ‘essential’ right to own a gun, while Pew Surveys reveal that gun owners are more likely to contact officials about gun policies, with 60% of these supporting laxer laws.
Mix these strong opinions for relaxed gun laws alongside the fact there is no real, solid opposing organisation against the NRA and we realise we are driving in circles around a one-way street. To add fire to fury, changes in gun laws previously made have cost millions of dollars and were not enforced enough to have a visible effect, posing the question to their citizens to why the US even bothered to try.
This brings us to our concluding, yet vital point: “buying back” guns is not really much of an option as it is the government that will need to confiscate millions of firearms. Now if the government is endorsed by the organisation supporting guns and previous restrictions have failed, this is likely to as well. The UK and Australia’s ‘buying back guns’ programme, almost bribing those with weaponry for the exchange of money and anonymity to avoid prosecution of having illegal firearms, only worked for two reasons: the government thoroughly enforced it and the law did not state any right for citizens to bear arms.
Changing legislation will not only take months, but it also seems like an impossible dream, and if the citizens strongly support their rights to bear arms, they won’t be handing in their weapons so easily; in fact, it could even cause an uproar resulting in civil war, with police forcing citizens to drop their weapons.
It is a tough one to get around, and whilst speculators around the globe shout: “Do something about this”, it almost feels like a puzzle which will never be solved.
*mass shooting being defined as an event where at least four people are shot