Mass shootings and gun violence will continue to plague American society until the Government starts putting people ahead of party politics and updates its outlook on gun laws

 

I wish I could say that the mass shooting in Orlando caused me to start thinking about the gun control laws in my country. Unfortunately, it wasn’t this shooting. Or the shooting before that which made me wonder what the United States was thinking by refusing to reform gun laws that so obviously to me were not working.

For years now it has seemed like there has been a mass shooting almost every month, and after every incident the same things seem to happen. Democrats become outraged and call for tighter gun laws, while Republicans react by calling for more guns in fear of losing their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Whoever is president at the time calls for us all to unite to keep such tragedy from repeating, and says how sick they are of making the same speech over and over again. But the two parties keep toting their party line, refusing to compromise or truly listen to each other’s side.

Being in London during this particular mass shooting, however, has given me a different perspective on how politics can work. In 1987, an unemployed labourer named Michael Robert Ryan shot 16 people with an AK-47 in Hungerford, England. In 1996, sixteen children, aged five through six, and one of their teachers were killed with several others injured when a man with four handguns broke into the gymnasium of a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland. This instance in particular sounds like one of the first mass shootings that shook the US in 2012, resulting in the deaths of twenty children and six adults when a gunman broke into Sandy Hook primary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The difference between the US and the UK shootings, is that after children died in the UK because of lax gun laws, the Government took action. In 1988, after the massacre in Hungerford, Parliament responded by outlawing semi-automatic weapons and limiting the sales of some types of shotguns. Similarly, after the school shooting in Dunblane, more legislative bans on handguns and assault weapons were implemented and background checks were tightened.

According to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, presented in the Small Arms Survey collected by the Guardian, the US had 9,146 homicides by firearm in 2007, which was 60 per cent of all homicides. England and Wales by comparison had 41 homicides by firearm, which was 6.6 per cent of all homicides. In this survey the US had the highest gun ownership rate of any nation with 88 guns per 100 people. The second closest was Yemen, a nation torn with civil war, with 54.8 guns per 100 people. This shows that though the US is one of the most successful countries in the world in many ways, it is completely unsuccessful at agreeing on facts, or causality. Rather, both sides in politics have their own facts and opinions and refuse to reach any kind of middle ground.

I believe that there are multiple reasons for this, including unwillingness to concede to the changing times and the nature of bipartisan politics. One reason that it has been easier to reform gun control laws in the UK than in the US is because they don’t have a contract like the Constitution that some use as a tool to prevent change. Humanity and technology have evolved much in over 200 years since the Constitution was written, yet some insist on holding it to its every word and refuse to allow prudent change. The Second Amendment can’t be used as the only reason to have guns because we live in an entirely different world to the one it was written for.

Another problem with not only the gun control debate but American politics in general, that I have noticed in my time here in the UK, is that it is almost impossible for the US to get anything done with the two-party system as it is. Rather than coming together as a nation to solve political issues, we dig our heels into our parties’ sides and refuse to move. We won’t compromise. We won’t even really listen to each other. Political media becomes a show of who can get the American public to hate who the most.

After tragedies like the one in Orlando the first thing politicians do is use them to strengthen their party line and raise hate for the opposite side. It’s an unworkable system that the US keeps digging itself deeper and deeper into without realizing that their is another way. In the UK, the multitude of political parties permits for everyone’s voice to be heard. There may only be a few parties with most of the power, but at least there are more opportunities to have what you really care about represented and a possibility of creating change rather than discord.

 

Sources:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2013/02/17/britain-gun-control-efforts-offer-workable-model-for-britain-offers-model-gun-control-efforts/Nt98rMndiczTiv6QMRVGHI/story.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/17/world/europe/dunblane-lessons/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-20738998

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list#data

 

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