The United States’ dogmatic belief in gun ownership has cost too many innocent lives. The Florida school shooting should spark politicians to end it, argues Liam Martin-Lane
So far 2018 has been a particularly deadly year for students in America’s schools. As of yesterday, there have been a total of 18 school shootings so far, making the news from Florida sadly unsurprising. The fact that mass murder in the United States today can be treated as just ‘another item of news’ shows how accustomed that nation is to violence. More than this, there seems to be a direct link between these events and the States’ near 250 year-old devotion to the second amendment – ‘…the right of the People to keep and bear arms…’.
Three of the five worst shootings in the US have occurred in the last 18 months. On each occasion, the death toll has either matched or surpassed the Manchester bombing, and on each occasion, the weapon used was purchased and owned legally.
That is why I am fully supportive of the surviving students preparing to march on Washington DC. They will be demanding US politicians do the work which Barack Obama tried but failed to do in office – bring about gun control.
I do not envisage success anytime soon. It took two massacres in ten years for British politicians to dismantle the oxymoron of private gun ownership and increased public safety. Even then, the Labour government’s attempts to strengthen John Major’s response to the William Cullen report in light of the Dunblane massacre were opposed by the Tories in the House of Commons.
This new generation of activists are not just confronting a codified constitution. They will also be up against a series of blunt and oversimplified cynics in favour of keeping the status quo. They will hear arguments such as ‘people deliberately kill others using cars, yet we don’t ban them for everybody’, and ‘the prohibition era caused a huge black market for alcohol and higher rates of offences’. And this does not even touch on the fact that Donald Trump’s successful election campaign was substantially funded by the National Rifle Association.
Overcoming the NRA is a matter of winning hearts and minds. Winning the mind is simple: the second amendment was designed for a time gone by. It is extremely rare in the west for agents of government (police, soldiers etc) to oppress people. Furthermore, private gun ownership cannot possibly keep people safe when statistics suggest the US has a proportional homicide by firearms rate nearly 30 times higher than the United Kingdom. Winning hearts will be harder though. Gun ownership is perhaps one of the most stereotypical characteristics of American values.
Perhaps though, the next generation of politicians can remind the current one of two things: first, the most fundamental freedom you can grant somebody is the freedom to live their life; second, if you think that gun control is an emotional or knee-jerk response to a common event, try stepping into the shoes of the parents or the siblings all across Florida, Connecticut, Texas, Coloardo, Virginia, South Carolina and Nevada, who no longer have the freedom to embrace a loved one every evening.
Liam Martin-Lane is the Chair of Redbridge Young Labour and member of Progress. He tweets @LML96_
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