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Here in the UK we’ve had a pretty good summer, from Olympic glory to naked Royals, it’s been pretty eventful to say the least. However it seems that the only news to cross the Atlantic from our American cousins seems to either be about the upcoming Presidential elections or yet another shooting tragedy. Whilst I’m sure this has a lot to do with our own media coverage it would be foolish to pretend there isn’t a problem. And with the debate on whether or not to arm UK police officers emerging once again following the deaths of Officers Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, it may soon be an issue that affects us as well.
Despite the spate of incidents this summer a significant amount of people in America refuse to acknowledge any issue with their laws on gun control. When yet another one of these horrendous events occur they often cite the perpetrator as a “lone nut” and suggest that perhaps things would have turned out differently if only the victims themselves had been armed. Never mind that some of the incidents this summer occurred in a Sikh temple, a college campus and one of the busiest streets in New York. Perhaps the most infamous incident this summer (and it speaks volumes that there’s such a plethora to choose from) is the shooting that occurred at a screening of the holidays biggest blockbuster, the Dark Knight Rises. In July at a midnight showing of the film, PhD student James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 58 with weapons (including a semi-automatic rifle) all of which he bought legally. However instead of discussing gun control in the wake of this event many of those in favour of possession insist to do so at this time would be “disrespectful to the families of the victims”. Some even went as far as to turn the debate towards violence in films choosing simply to pave over the real issue.
Yet as awful as this incident is it is just another in a long line of shootings, just Google “mass shootings US” and you’ll see there’s a lot more than just the international headline grabbers Columbine and Virginia Tech. The arguments for stricter gun control are vast and have been made countless times by far better writers than me and the fact is there are always going to be privately owned guns in the US and many people can and do own them responsibly. But does anyone really need a semi-automatic rifle? They certainly aren’t weapons intended for self defence and if you need to use one to go hunting then frankly you’re not very good at it. These weapons just allow psychopaths to fire indiscriminately into crowds and inflict as much damage as possible.
Despite what gun lobbies like the NRA would have their members believe President Obama has done next to nothing to change gun laws in his first term and has only vaguely hinted at addressing the issue if he gets re-elected this November. Yet unless something significant is done to change the situation in the US these tragedies are just going to keep happening. Banning ownership of semi-automatics is not going to stop the problem overnight but surely it’s a step in the right direction.