Monday, 17 January 2011

Guns don't kill people, deluded civilians do

In the aftermath of last week’s terrible events in Tucson, Arizona, discussion inevitably turns once more to the issue of gun control in the USA.  America once more has to face the reality of another group of innocent people being gunned down by somebody with mental problems, a grudge against society and, most importantly, easy access to serious firepower.

As someone born and raised in a country with extremely tight gun control, the situation in America seems close to madness to me.  I just can’t figure out what western frontier town fantasy some people seem to be living in.

With regard to the Tucson incident, two particular quotes gave me cause to bang my head against the table in amazement.  The first was from Charles Hellar, a founder of the Arizona Defence League, who said,

‘This incident shows very, very clearly why it is so vital to
have more people armed and ready and prepared to
defend themselves and others.’

But he’s not alone - sadly far from it.  Yosemite Hellar’s point of view was also shared by one Jim Hague, who apparently works as a nurse (though we assume not one that has to deal with gunshot wounds),

‘If a responsible person carrying a gun had been there,
 he could possibly have helped control the situation’

Helped control the situation?  By blasting away at the person blasting away at the crowd?  I can’t be the only person who thinks that that is an insane point of view?  I’ve heard of fighting fire with fire, but the situation where one or more members of the crowd had started shooting as well would surely have done little to ease the situation, and probably would have ended up with even more innocent lives wasted.  The image of a heroic member of the crowd pulling out a gun and casually putting a single bullet into the leg of the bad guy must give these guys wet dreams, but it’s an image that surely only belongs in a Hollywood movie.  Is the child killed by one of the 'responsible person's' stray bullets any less dead? Should they avoid criminal charges as they were nobly acting in defence of the other people?

And who counts as a responsible person anyway?  I’m not sure I’d count somebody walking the streets packing a hand cannon as a particularly stable personality – at the very least they would appear to be paranoid in the extreme, and most likely have delusions of firearms proficiency that the American laws do not require them to possess.

Do they have some utopian vision of society where everyone walks around with a gun on their hip, in the belief that (in some scaled-down nuclear deterrent kind of way) nobody would therefore ever attack anybody else?  I was always brought up to believe that in a civilised society we elect governments to do certain things for us – things such as fight our wars and deal with our criminals.  This stops us having to take out personal vendettas on those who may have wronged us, and lets us live our lives, for the most part, in peace and without the fear of being shot by a random stranger.  People such as Messers Heller and Hague, however, seem to believe in vigilante justice.  Why call the police when I can call on the crazy old guy next door with a sniper rifle?  The really funny thing is that these same people would probably tell you that we should all be more scared of the threat posed by the growth of China...


What a strange coincidence that a related story would come to my attention just a day after posting the above thoughts.  A news item today initially reported a shooting at a High School in Los Angeles.  It was later amended, however, to a much stranger story.  It seems that two school pupils were indeed critically injured in a school firearms incident, but it was not the deranged gunman scenario you might imagine.  Instead, it seems, a pupil had a loaded gun in his rucksack, which went off accidentally when he dropped it.  A freak accident to be sure, but I wonder how Heller and Hague would respond to such an accident, as presumably the child taking a loaded gun to school was one of their 'responsible people' and just exercising his constitutional rights.  Perhaps he wanted to save his fellow pupils from deranged attackers?  Perhaps the two wounded kids are just collatoral damage - the price to be paid for the greater good.

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