The United States remains, at the moment, the last country without sensible regulation of firearms. Mostly due to a backwards and mendacious intepretation of a constitutional clause that was intended to allow people to fight in defense of their country.
But the Newtown killings threaten to change all that, and this is a good thing. While I don’t believe full disarmament is possible, and that it’s reasonable for people to carry rifles for self-defense or hunting, that doesn’t mean that some sort of massacre-prevention law is not necessary. It has been done in Australia, and America can do it too. While in terms of overall crime gun violence is not the largest problem, it is actually one of the easiest to solve, and only involves US Democrats standing up to an outsized lobby that doesn’t reflect the views of its members. Even NRA members favour reasonable massacre-prevention laws that might curtail some less useful or necessary gun rights.
For instance, while I would actually argue that legal adults are indeed entitled to own a single military weapon, there’s no need to allow them to buy unlimited amounts of ammunition unless there’s an imminent threat of invasion. Also, there’s no excuse for ever allowing a concealed firearm of any type- any gun carried should either be clearly visible, or be carried in a safety case that clearly notes it contains a firearm, and should always be carried separately from its ammunition.
Also, unless your job requires a handgun, I don’t see why anyone should ever have one outside of a firing range. Give police the right to inspect people for firearms and ammunition carried illegally in addition to this, and it becomes much harder for people to commit massacres, and your massacres are limited to less potent weapons in general, and people are less likely to commit them- see the difference in terms of a Japanese crime along the same lines. The killer with the knife was unable to injure or murder anywhere near as many people.
Now, I’m not an expert on these matters, but this isn’t a circle that needs to be squared. It’s a triangle where one side of the debate has been missing for many years, and Americans deserve safe schools and safe cities where gun violence doesn’t happen, and it’s quite possible to have very tight gun laws that still allow for legitimate use of firearms by, say, farmers.
As for the victim-blaming going on- look, the Newtown Killer’s mother is not to blame. She lived in a society that does not provide adequate help to people who are at risk for violent behaviour due to mental illness, (which by the way, is a clear minority) and she lived in a society where there was little to no safety net to prevent illegal use of her firearms. She is another tragic murder victim, and doesn’t deserve our criticism.
And as for the “we need MORE guns so that heroes can defeat the bad guys” or “arm teachers” memes, there’s been excellent discussion of why that’s a bad idea elsewhere, by someone who was raped and threatened by a gun owner. Unless we want vigilantes poking into all of our business, widespread gun ownership doesn’t solve as many crimes as it creates.
In any politically healthy country, the immediate, unprompted response would be an improvement of mental health services (with a focus on rehabilitating or caring for those with a risk of violent acts) and sensible gun control law. If the USA is to be a country where people feel safe, that will need to be their response this February, and now is the first time we’re being allowed to have that long-overdue conversation, which thanks to social media, the NRA cannot shut down.
Safe holidays and happy travels to all of you, most especially those of you in the USA.