Happy 13-day-late New Year to all of you!
To ring in the New Year in truly joyous style, let’s talk about school shootings, or more specifically, school shootings in the United States. Though perhaps, we can more broadly look at the problem of random mass killings which seems to plague America. Just three days ago, the first random shooting of the year heralded a fresh round in America’s private civil war.
In 2012 alone there were sixteen random mass murders resulting the death of 88 people. Sandy Hook Elementary School is one of two that shook America on a visceral level. On December 14 of last year, a mentally unstable young man took his mother’s guns, shot her four times as she slept and then went to a local elementary school where he massacred 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7, as well as 6 educators who tried to protect their students before turning his arsenal upon himself.
Those were the lives of 20 infants taken before they had ever really lived, 20 families who sent their children to a place where they should be safe only to discover they spent their last moments terrified. When I read an article in The Sun, of all papers, that offered a glimpse into the lives of the children and teachers, I actually cried. I’m not one for needless tears or sentimentality, but every time I read something about Sandy Hook I feel myself welling up.
Barack Obama’s address on the day of the shooting showed the same sort of unexpected tears, when the President of the United States had to stop twice to compose himself. The world offered America its sympathies and condolences, there is something very basic that unites people about the notion of children being harmed. Singaporean Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam put it neatly: “Children are innocent, full of life and promise. Cut down in a hail of bullets by a person with a rifle. There have been so many shootings in the US over the years we no longer get surprised that this happens.” The hope among gun control advocates was that with a weak upper house, and in the period prior to his second inauguration, Obama could pull off a Lincoln-style coup on the Constitution and amend the controversial Second Amendment.
For a golden moment it appeared, from the silence of the gun lobbyists, that something quite remarkable was about to happen. Then the gun lobby shrugged off that sudden weight of human decency and started up its crazy engines. Oh boy, and were the engines roaring! The National Rifle Association made the staggering suggestion that schools needed armed guards to make them safer. The EVP of the NRA (got to love American acronym fetishism), Wayne LaPierre issued a call which so miscalculated the American mood that he might as well have peed on a flag. LaPierre not only suggested placing armed guards in schools but said that the fact teachers could not carry weapons placed students at risk! As well as some tried and tested tosh about films, rap music and video games. Though perhaps more disturbing, as this poll shows us, 41% of American voters support putting armed police officers in schools. This same poll does also tell us that the NRA has taken something of a dip in image.
Anyone who believes the answer to the problem of gun violence can be solved by putting guns in the way of determined madmen/women doesn’t understand the principle of escalation. Never mind that people are failing to see how insane this all this in a first world country with a GDP like America’s that people need to talk about armed guards in schools: they simply don’t work. The lengthy Daily Mail article I referenced has the story of a sheriff’s deputy who was at Columbine on the day of its own massacre, but was unable to stop an assailant.
The NRA and other gun lobbyists stand by the Second Amendment as a way of ousting tyrants. I see it as a way for a country with 12,000 annual gun fatalities (though there have been disturbing peaks), and in excess of 22,000 children and teenagers killed by gun violence between 1999 and 2010 (a statistic so intrinsically repugnant that I’m surprised its very existence does not see gun control ratcheted up to Mr LaPierre’s eyeballs), to continue in ignorance. Sandy Hook rocked the world because at Christmas time, in a primary school, 26 people met their untimely ends at the hands of a psychotic. It should not take the deaths of 20 children to make a nation reassess, and evidently, it’s doing that in the wrong way: through toxic bipartisan politics.
People will try to argue that other factors cause more deaths in the USA in each year (cars, swimming, etc, bloody pathetic etc), they will argue that people kill people not guns, will argue that superbugs in the NHS kill more people (a frankly macabre game of morbidity Top Trumps in the comments of a YouTube video): superbugs were not created by anyone with the intent to kill, they made themselves. Guns are made, high capacity clips are made, sniper rifles are made (and available to civilians for what reason?), 310 million non-military firearms were made, the decision not to stop gun sales at gun shows is made; a quick hunt on any search engine turns up more problems with American gun laws.
To encapsulate quite how deep-seated the American obsession with the gun is, I happened across Cory Hendrick’s comment on this article: “Not only is my desire to own a gun a natural right, it’s so important, it’s specifically mentioned in our blessed constitution…Our forefathers fought vehemently once for their God given rights. Let’s hope it’s not repeated.” This sentiment of always needing to be ready for the day when their government might screw them magnificently enough to warrant rebellion appears again and again, for all their faith in the constitution, a section of the American public seems to have no faith in the sanity of their system.
Fuck the politics, fuck the rhetoric…”Children are innocent, full of life and promise…”, their lives should never be subordinate to that which slaughtered them.
- School Shootings: How Do We Prevent Them? (education.com)
- Gun Manufacturer Claims Bank of America Withheld Money Over Online Sales (dailyfinance.com)
- Gun Appreciation Day: Conservative Coalition Plans Pre-Inaugural, Pro-Weapons Event On January 19 (huffingtonpost.com)
- Basu: There has to be a way to end NRA grip on guns (abetteriowa.desmoinesregister.com)
- Despite dropping popularity, NRA seeks to protect guns no matter what (dailykos.com)
- Awaiting ideas for reasonable gun control – TheDay.com (theday.com)
- Second Amendment Foundation Requests Meeting with WH, Denied (breitbart.com)
- Greater Chattanooga area parents take on guns in schools (timesfreepress.com)
- The Suprising Unknown History of the NRA (alternet.org)
- NRA in firing line after launching gun app (thehindu.com)