Trigger Warning: The following article contains details of several mass shootings that some readers may find distressing. If you have been affected by gun violence, never hesitate to seek help.

Strangely enough, I wrote the bulk of this piece a couple of months ago, foreseeing the continuation of the tragedies we have recently witnessed in Georgia and Colorado. What I didn’t expect was two shootings of this magnitude within ONE WEEK of each other. If that does not prompt immediate action by lawmakers, nothing will. Then again, we have seen Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and other tragic events come and go without lasting change. But without further ado, please at least listen to my stance on guns from a UK citizen’s perspective, as we shake our heads in disbelief at what’s going on across the Atlantic.

Gun ‘Control’ is an elusive idea in America

After seeing the horrifying scenes on 6 January at the Capitol, with five people losing their lives that day, one strange thought was going through my head.

As I watched CNN, I turned to my family and said: ‘Things could be a lot worse right now’. Yep, I really said it — the reason? Gun control.

‘Control’ is putting it politely, especially with the relaxed attitudes towards firearms out in the United States. It seems to be ingrained in the culture and it’s the single biggest thing I dislike about our neighbours, along with their deep problems with racism.

My strong opposition to guns is down to two core beliefs. Firstly, no ordinary citizen should carry a weapon of war and destruction — how else can you describe a gun? They have no place in a civilised society, especially around young people.

Secondly, why should any child have to go to school knowing they could potentially be shot and killed? And why should children even have to prepare for that possibility when shooter drills take place? Yes, these are only drills, but only God knows how some pupils must feel when they happen.

Imagine the stress and anxiety that has been caused by them. Imagine having to contemplate the possibility this could happen for real. Imagine being one of those children who worries they could be the next victim of gun crime just because they are at school. Of course, you could suggest a similar trauma can be caused by fire drills. But legislation can be put in place on weapons to severely reduce the chances of school shootings happening. Look at the UK, there has not been a mass shooting at a school in this country since 1996.

The UK’s trackrecord with shootings

Other than Sandy Hook, a tragic event I will come to later, there’s one other mass shooting that still shocks me to this day. The most haunting documentary I have ever seen has to be Zero Hour: ‘Massacre at Columbine High’, the story of two boys, named Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 13 people in a Colorado School before committing suicide. This was in 1999, the year before I was born. I wasn’t even alive to see it, yet alone remember it. And it didn’t even take place in my country but this event has had a lasting impact on me. That CCTV footage of the two boys walking around the school heavily armed will remain in my mind forever.

Three years earlier, a horrendous shooting took place at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland, taking the lives of 15 innocent young children aged five and six, as well as their teacher Gwen Mayor. It proved to be the catalyst for real change in the United Kingdom.

Although we have never had the same attachment to guns the United States has, credit must be given to John Major and Tony Blair for addressing this issue properly and passing legislation to try and stop what happened in 1996 from happening ever again. Had they done anything less, it would have been a dereliction of duty. Both the Tories and Labour decided we could not fail our young people in this way any longer.

Protecting our children from gun violence was an absolute non-negotiable and still remains that way to this day. I dread to think of a day when that could change. We must never relax gun restrictions, especially when we continue to have a major problem with knife crime.

Let’s hope then that Nigel Farage never becomes prime minister. In an LBC interview in 2014 with Nick Ferrari, he described Tony Blair’s legislation on firearms as ‘ludicrous’ and said that the fact the British Olympic pistol team had to go to France just to practice was ‘crackers’. Are there not more important things to be worried about? Personally, I’m proud of the fact they had to go to France to practise. It shows the strength of our gun legislation. And I believe his proposal to bring back handguns is more ‘crackers’, to be honest.

He also said: ‘if you criminalise handguns then only the criminals carry the guns’. I take that point — but the answer to that is not to have more guns on the street. People are always going to slip through the net even when guns are legal. And I accept gun crime is still happening in the UK and it’s something we will probably never be able to get rid of completely.

But at least we aren’t America

On the weekend before Joe Biden’s inauguration, the whole country was on red alert for multiple armed protests at all 50 state capitols — just imagine how deadly this could have been. Non-peaceful protests can be dangerous at the best of times, let alone a protest where people are heavily armed. President Biden must do everything he possibly can to restrict the use of guns, in the hope he can retain power in 2024 and build on those first steps.

President Obama, whose Vice President was Biden for the eight years they spent in office together between 2009 and 2017, cited the lack of progress on gun control laws as the biggest frustration of his presidency. And although his successor Trump banned bump stocks (to his credit) after the 2017 Las Vegas shooting — he didn’t exactly do much more on this issue.

It may not be a universally popular policy for Biden to pursue tighter gun laws, but it’s in the national interest of the country to do it. We can only hope that it can then be the catalyst for further action in the years that lie ahead.

There is always the risk of the Republican Party repealing tighter restrictions if they get the chance. There is also strong support for Second Amendment rights — and that is a major concern of mine. The National Rifle Association (NRA), who have close links with the party, is one of the most powerful political lobbyist groups in the United States. But the organisation is a cancer on the American people. There are no two ways about it.

Republicans and the NRA have worked hand-in-hand for many years opposing common-sense gun reforms — even Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert vowed to carry a gun on the premises of the US Capitol building earlier this year.

Let’s just pause for a minute. A public servant wanted to carry a weapon of war into the symbol of American democracy. For what? Hey, maybe I’m being harsh. Maybe her staunch defence of Second Amendment rights is part of a functioning democracy. But my opposition to guns remains the same.

Even if there is a short-term increase in gun-related crime after these new restrictions are brought in, any event that sees fewer guns on the streets is a massive win for me. And I believe the move towards tighter restrictions would definitely pay dividends in the long term regardless. I’m under no illusion. This will be a difficult task. And it won’t be solved overnight with a new bill that passes through the Senate. The path to progress will be lengthy and with plenty of opposition, but it is long overdue.

The tide must change

Some people may say: who am I to even wade in on this debate? You just don’t get it because you’re not part of our culture. This doesn’t even affect you! Why not look at your own country with its horrific record on knife crime?

You have a point. But this is an issue I nevertheless feel strongly about and have done so for years, even as a 12-year-old when Sandy Hook happened. I’m not politicising those children who were killed. It’s just a natural human reaction to what happened. How can you not have an emotional response to the 27 innocent people killed that day?

We must not fail those children. Nor can we fail those who are still with us. Shame on Alex Jones for his conspiracy theories about December 2012 — he didn’t act in the national interest.

But guess what? Someone will one day, and that day needs to come soon. Thankfully, President Biden has renewed calls for a ban on assault weapons and wants two new laws to pass through the US Senate, relating to background checks on people who want to purchase a gun. He should go even further and he should have spoken out about this earlier on in his premiership, but better late than never. At least the 78-year-old President wants to do something about it. Now that this legislation has passed through the House of Representatives, minority leader Mitch McConnell needs to step up, have courage, and take the lead by putting the American people above the NRA. If he doesn’t, I will never forgive him. Nor will I forgive the Republican senators who vote against this legislation, or a Democrat for that matter.

Eighteen lives disappeared in the two recent shootings in Atlanta and Boulder.

Common sense must prevail.

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.