Newtown, further thoughts…

On the 14th December 2011 a horrendous massacre took place at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown which claimed the lives of 28 people (including the perpetrator and his mother (who he stole the guns from)). In the days that followed Americans, as well as the whole world, were putting forward (some arguing with each other) their own different opinions on how to try and prevent there from being another similar atrocity in the future and also try to fix an already growing problem in a country that has over 300 million guns (which is more than 1 gun per every adult in America) and has the worst gun homicide rates for a developed country.

It is clear that there is a gun problem at the minute in America.  On average, America has around 3.7 gun related homicides per 100000 citizens (14th Highest) which although is not nearly as bad as other developing countries such as Colombia, Honduras, Brazil etc. is greatly higher than any of the other developed countries (higher than even some developing countries such as India, Chile and Poland). Compared to European countries the US has about 7 times more the amount of gun related homicides per 100000 citizens than Switzerland (the highest rate in Europe) and compared to the UK the US has more than 100 times more the rate of homicides.

There are many solutions that various people have offered to sort out this gun problem in the US. Pro-gun activists, such as the NRA, argue that the solution is to have more guns (which seems to be supported by some Americans as the purchase of guns has risen after Newtown) and in particular schools (some such as Larry Pratt argue that teachers should have concealed guns). They argue that if more of the “good” guys have guns they can use them against the “evil” guys to defend themselves. Although this could be true (as it does allow people to defend themselves), it also leaves the possibility of there being a terrible fatal accident (teacher goes insane and starts a massacre, toddler finds the gun and blows his or her own head off or classmates etc.). Others argue that there should be more gun control to try and combat this problem. There have been instances where there has been visible evidence that gun related atrocities/crimes have dropped as a result of there being stricter gun enforcement. For example after the Dunblane massacre in 1996 Britain effectively made private ownership handguns illegal under the firearms amendment act of 1997 and firearms (amendment) act (No.2) of 1997. Despite there being almost no immediate notable change in the big picture gun related crime has fallen in the UK as a result and in particular handgun related crimes fell by 44% from 2003 to 2011. Nevertheless these laws have not completely eradicated massacres from happening in the UK. In 2010, there were the Cumbria shootings where Derrick Bird killed 13 people (including himself) and Raul moat in the same year when he killed three people including himself.  However, even though there were these two tragic instances the records of there only being two major massacres does represent some sort of an achievement from the British law enforcement.  Another example is in Canada after the introduction of licensing of firearms in Canada there has been a drop in 1.15 homicides per 100000 due to guns in 1977 to 0.5 homicides per 100000 due to guns in 2003.

Despite these two examples (and many others e.g. Colombia, (to an extent) New York etc.) immediate laws clamping down on the ownership of guns in America might not be the answer to its gun problems. One problem that stricter gun laws could have in America is that firstly it would be very hard to pass through any anti-gun laws, due to there being more of a gun culture over in America as opposed to Britain. Another problem is that such a drastic immediate step (even just by banning all semi-automatic rifles) does present a danger of there being immediate problems in the future (such as an increase in crime due to a loss of personal protection).This reason for this is because if any institution undertakes a drastic step too quickly there is a danger of there being problems along the way (such as with the introduction of democracy in Germany in 1918 which eventually led to fascism). Stricter gun laws could benefit America but America would have to be careful for not making them too drastic otherwise a bigger problem could be created. One possible solution for America which could help reduce gun crime without much risk is for the government to increase its spending to help mentally ill people and introduce more clinics to help them. This could work because in many of the massacres in America the perpetrators were known to possess some sort of mental illness. If these people, like in many other countries such as the UK, are looked after or helped this could lead to there being a decrease in the number of mentally unstable people allowing them to think more rationally and less likely to commit a massacre immediately. In the end, the correct solution to this gun problem (whether it is more/less guns/gun control) will take a long time to find and be properly implemented for there to be any significant effect to combat this problem. For now, at least, it is good that both sides in the gun debate (pro and anti-gun activists) realize that there is a problem in America and that something needs to be done about it. Hopefully America can find a solution soon so that we will never get a repeat of Newtown where 20 poor 6/7 year olds got their lives taken away from them and were denied the opportunity to experience a long and happy life and also those who survived at Newtown who are unfortunately mentally scarred due to the events.


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