American Gun Laws
Adam Chapman

How To Fix The Gun Problem In America

A British Take On The Ever-Present Gun Problem In The United States 

Another week, another shooting and once again the target was a school. Last week on the 18th of May a 17-year-old gunman by the name Dimitrios Pagourtzis entered the school grounds with a Remington Model 870 pump action shotgun, a .38 calibre revolver and multiple explosive devices and subsequently took the lives of 10 people with 13 more being wounded in the attack (latest numbers at the time of writing). Not only is this a horrible loss of life but the mental scars inflicted on the survivors cannot be understated. This latest attack brings the average number of school shootings in America up to just over 1 a week.

The guns he used in the attack were legally owned by his father and if that doesn’t send alarm bells ringing I don’t know what does. This is the major problem I have with American gun laws. Background checks are nowhere near as effective enough, sure his father may have been of sound mental health with no existing reason for anything to raise concern but how thorough was the check on his family members, their current situation and how the guns would be held within his household? This isn’t the first time a school shooter has gained access to firearms that belonged to a member of their family. Adam Lanza who committed the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting was known to have used weapons, again ‘LEGALLY’ owned by his mother (whom he killed during his rampage).

Adam Lanza, Sandy Hook
Sandy Hook School Shooter Adam Lanza

Some extreme gun lovers in America would argue that background checks of any sort are an infringement on their second amendment rights, an invasion by the Government to take away their freedom.

I find this whole idea of ‘Freedom’ incredibly stubborn. If you’re going to allow people to own something as extreme as a gun surely you have to compromise a little bit. You wouldn’t let someone drive a car without a licence, so accept the background checks, It’s this stubborn attitude that stagnates any progression in improving the gun crime statistics in America. Personally, I believe anyone in possession of a gun should have to have checks ups to evaluate their mental health, factors in their life that could be causing increased stressed levels and need a legitimate reason for owning a weapon of that sort. I don’t see how it gives you a sense of freedom to claim you need it for home protection. How is it a freedom to feel constantly under threat? Maybe that’s just me being an ignorant Englishman but I don’t see how it’s not constantly playing on your mind.

You know what gives me a greater sense of freedom over here in England? Knowing that the chances are the guy standing next to me in Macdonalds isn’t possibly carrying an object that could easily and effectively end my life or cause me incredible damage. It’s actually one of the reasons I haven’t visited the US and don’t have any immediate plans.

The UK has one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world as of 2018 and although they’ve raised by 20% in a year on year spike they’re still nothing in comparison to those seen in the United States.

The UK banned members of the public from owning handguns after the school shooting in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996, the UK’s first and only school shooting. It just took the one for our country to be like “Well if you can’t all be trusted, nobody gets them”. Sporting rifles and shotguns can be owned but under incredibly heavy licensing. Pretty much you have to be a farmer and have a legitimate need for shooting animals. These guns are not magazine fed, are slow to operate and are possibly the least effective when it comes to quickly shooting off ammunition.

Dunblane School Shooting
Following the Dunblane gun laws in the UK became a lot stricter.

Sure people still get handguns in the UK, the criminal underworld can get someone pretty much anything if they look hard enough, there’s no stopping that but it certainly is a lot harder to find this side of the ocean.

I recently watched the series Little Boy Blue, A drama that documented the appalling murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones in Croxteth, Liverpool in 2007 by 16-year-old Sean Mercer who’s wayward shot caught Jones in the neck and shoulder. The gun used was incredibly old, the bullet that inflicted the wound wasn’t “Travelling true” and instead tumbled through the air due to the rifling being worn, the bullet not being correct for the gun or indeed the bullet itself being damaged or worn due to age, Surely that highlights the incredibly poor quality of the weapon used by Mercer in the attack, Furthermore the series highlighted the issues faced in getting the gun in the first place. You can bet your mortgage that if this attack had taken place in America Mercer would be using a fresh out the factory state of the art handgun.

Sean Mercer, Rhys Jones,
Shooter Sean Mercer and Victim Rhys Jones

That was one 11-year-old child killed, 11 years ago yet the horror felt in the national consciousness is still felt to this day. When stuff like this is happening on a weekly basis in America is it possible to argue that a desensitising effect has happened?

Society has to move as slow as the slowest member. If not everyone can be trusted with a privilege then surely something has to change. I know that removing guns entirely from the US isn’t a viable option, it seems the country is too deep down that rabbit hole but changes and reforms should surely have to be made. Maybe all guns are kept at the shooting range then you can still have your ‘fun’ with them, maybe single shot rifles are the only ones available to the public, maybe you invest the thousand dollars you spent on your 6th firearm into increased home security. I’m just throwing some things out there but clearly there’s still a proportion of American’s who won’t even consider these as it’s taking away their god damn, blue jeans, bald eagle, bud light on a Tuesday afternoon in the front yard FREEDOM!

Doesn’t it scream volumes when you see members of the American public saying they’re use their guns in the event anyone tried to take their guns. Is it really worth dying for? Is it really worth killing for? The American attitude towards firearms is something that I’m sure I’ll never understand so all I can run off is evidence from examples such as the UK and Australia instead of some abstract concept of Freedom. 

The honest answer is that there is no way to fix America’s gun problem until you change the attitude surround guns. If there is one thing American’s are known for it isn’t being open-minded to constructive criticism especially when it comes to that 200-year-old piece of paper.