It was when I saw the pictures of the victims that this tragedy really hit me. I always say that I have a Grinch-like heart encased in ice. But when I saw the pictures of those cute and innocent children, I cried. Like a baby. The ice surrounding my heart melted with sadness and also anger. Red hot anger.
I am English. I am not your stereotypical Brit who enjoys a cup of tea and speaks like an extra from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. What gives me the right to comment about this massacre? I tell you what right I have: I am a rational human being.
I cannot promise that this will be the most sophisticated piece I write nor can I promise that there is a particular structure. This is, quite possibly, the hardest piece I have ever had to write. Like President Obama’s 12-second gap in his reaction to the shootings, this is agonising. I feel the best way to summarise the tragedy is through this simple statement:
Guns = Shooting
To respect the memory of the victims in not only the Newtown shootings, but in Columbine, Oregon, Wisconsin, Aurora and Chicago, this is the time to take action against the gun culture in America. As soon as the reporting began, Twitter was a hive of activity. Some would argue against the insensitivity, but the outpour of emotions and reaction revealed the horror and the need for change. Whilst I searched through the masses of information, I found some shocking statistics.
In the whole of 2011, the entire death toll in the UK from gun crime was 39. This is in a population of 70 million. The US population is five times bigger than the UK, so if America had similar gun controls the gun deaths would be around 195. Not the staggering 94,113. America has more gun deaths a DAY than Britain does a YEAR.
In 1996, a massacre occurred in the Scottish town of Dunblane. 43-year-old Thomas Hamilton entered Dunblane Primary School armed with four handguns, shooting and killing sixteen children and one adult before committing suicide. After this massacre, the Conservative government at the time limited the ownership of handguns with the following Labour government banning them completely.
The Independent concluded their article on the Dunblane massacre and the Newtown shootings:
“If America needs to ask itself what should happen next, it will begin to find the answers in two places: the small cemetery in Dunblane that holds the graves of half of 1996’s class P1, and its US counterpart in Newtown.”
There is a picture circulating around the Internet with statistics about handgun deaths. Here it is:
Combine the 48 in Japan, 8 in Britain, 34 in Switzerland, 52 in Canada, 58 in Israel, 21 in Sweden and 42 in Germany and you get 263 handgun deaths in 7 countries. In America – one country – there were 10,728 handgun deaths. 40x more deaths.
Pro-gun users tend to cite reasons such as ‘we are protecting our people’. Erm… not very well. In 2001, 2996 Americans were killed by terrorists. Almost 11,000 were killed by fellow Americans.
Another defence is “it is a constitution”. A constitution signed in the 17th Century. England and Iran are the only countries in the world not to have a constitution. Well, England did have one in the 13th Century called Magna Carta. But it was nullified. It was out-dated, after all. We do not need to regulate the Jewish moneylenders anymore because we are no longer anti-Semitic. Oh, and King John is no longer the King of England; it’s Queen Elizabeth II the last time I looked.
In the blunt words of Twitter user @timothycsimons:
“You know what? The British aren’t coming, you aren’t a militia, and twenty babies are dead. Fuck you.”
It is not anti-American to want mass shootings to stop: it is pro-American. It’s not freedom if kids have to die to uphold it. Barack Obama, in a heartfelt speech at the White House, promised to take ‘meaningful action’ regardless of politics.
After the shootings in Tasmania, Prime Minister John Howard brought in tough gun laws in Australia. He was a Conservative. This was ten years ago, and no mass shootings have taken place since. This is not a left or right issue. Ronald Reagan backed tougher gun control in America.
The New Yorker wanted to congratulate their readers on “living in the child-gun-massacre capital in the known universe”. I intended to write about the unethical journalism from CNN using a Facebook picture of the completely wrong person to report on the killer, or live interviewing a seven-year-old witness as well.
This was the most difficult piece I have ever had to write. I do not think I have done this any justice. But I hope I have raised valid points regarding the gun culture in America. We can take action, like we did in Dunblane and Australia, and have tougher gun control in the US.
I shall end on the words of the articulate Bill Maher:
“Sorry but prayers and giving your kids hugs fix nothing; only having the balls to stand up to our insane selfish gun culture will.”