The politicisation of guns in America is at the root of an issue which needs to stop being swept under the carpet
The shootings in Aurora, Colorado, by James Eagan Holmes at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises threw up yet another opportunity for politicians to address what is a recurrent problem in the US – gun massacres and the availability of such weapons to citizens in the United States. However, any discussions in relation to readdressing gun laws in America are quickly shunned, and those daring to discuss gun control so soon after the tragedy are looked upon as insensitive predators.
Preying on the vulnerable state of minds of the public to further their own goals, politicians often use their skills of rhetoric to turn public attention away from the stark politicisation of guns, and eventually, as people recover from the tragedy, shootings are forgotten until the next one. But if a tragedy on the scale of the Colorado shooting cannot encourage at least a dialogue of the need to make some changes to the American political system, then there will never be a right time to do so. As tragic as the Colorado shooting is, attention must be focused on attempting to avoid such incidents in the future. It should not be a conversation dominated by pro-gun and anti-gun propaganda, but rather an opportunity to look into the root causes of not only the Colorado shooting, but many similar shootings that occur far too frequently in the USA.
However, blaming the tragedy in Colorado on lax gun laws is similar to blaming a spoon for the obesity epidemic. To say that the availability of guns in America is the only reason for gun massacres is naïve. Saying that guns kill people and cause gun crime is simply a senseless tautology. The manifestation of shooting massacres point to deeper issues: the lack of mental healthcare in the US, the need for stronger laws on institutionalising those deemed ‘at risk’, and a need to invest in techniques for screening. Yet this can only occur when we accept the politicisation of guns, and with a necessity to address the reasons for the recent shooting, this is as good a time as any.
In the case of Holmes, looking at the complex traps and explosives he set up in his apartment, many question whether legal access to a gun would have made any difference to his plans. But by arguing that Holmes could have got hold of guns, no matter what, is refusing to deal with the issue at hand. It is similar to saying that we have no need for speed limits, because if people are intent on speeding, they will do it whether or not the laws are in place. The talk of rights and freedoms invariably appear when guns are on the political agenda. We often hear that this is a small price to pay for our liberties. This is an absurd and irrational stance to take; what use is freedom for a nation crippled by fear and paranoia of when and where the next shooting will be? And there will be a next shooting. We should not question whether Holmes would have got hold of guns anyway, but instead question why he had such easy access to guns in the first instance.
Guns are specifically designed to kill – to kill at a distance and to kill quickly. Rather than refusing to adjust gun laws on the basis of being powerless to change the Second amendment, we need to recognise that the time in which it was written, 1791, offered a far different reality to our own, a time when the weapons were muskets, not automatic rifles. It will always be the case across generations that a number of people will become so consumed with anger that they will be determined to commit great pain and suffering to those around them. Yet someone who has easy access to powerful assault rifles and handguns is far more privileged in his anger than someone who must navigate the legal system in order to gain access to such weapons.
It is also worth examining, at least, how the ready availability of guns to the general public does not ensure greater safety for the American people, as some politicians have attempted to argue. Who truly believes that if the movie goers had been armed, the loss of life would have been reduced? In the unimaginable chaos and confusion of a gun rampage, there is a fine line between shooting out in defence and shooting in the midst of many other innocent people. Indeed this attitude is typical of the gun culture in the USA. Gun sales have soared after the incident, fuelled by the politicians who advocate that had the attendees in the movie theatre been armed, the outcome would have been a lot different.
The shooting in Colorado did not jolt the American people into recognition of the lethality of guns and the dangers associated with everyone’s right to bear arms, as outlined in the Second Amendment. Rather it served to only reinforce the cycle and reinforce the idea that a gun is needed to feel safe and to protect oneself. In the minds of many Americans, guns serve as a means of feeling free, of having power. It is this mindset that needs to be challenged and addressed.
Image from: http://dogpool.tumblr.com/post/24707545938/never-underestimate-deadpool-even-if-hes-armed
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