From the graphic above to the recent and latest news concerning another mass shooting in the USA, you may think that this particular blog will focus on the complexing issue of US gun deaths and “Why don’t they do something about it ?” But whilst I will touch on that, it will be more as an example of something.
What I really want to focus on and in a number of different ways, is the volume of sheer stupidity we see in the media and coming from the mouths of politicians and pundits concerning things that happen in other countries, perhaps the full headline should better read: “We Need to Understand that We do not Understand”.
The USA and Gun Control
The numbers involved in all of this are frankly staggering and if you look at just 2015 to date and define “mass shootings” as incidents when 4 or more people were killed or injured by firearms, thus far there have been some 353 such incidents up to 3/12/2015, more than one per day. In these incidents 62 have been shootings at schools, 12,223 people have died and 24,722 have been injured. For more detailed information try: http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/
Perhaps another way of looking at this is even more shocking based upon research by Politifact ( http://www.politifact.com/ ) where they compare the death toll of every US war fought from the American Revolution to the Iraq War to domestic gun deaths between 1968 and 2011.
In over 200 years the US has lost 1.2 million in wars.
In the 43 years between 1968 and 2011 there were 1.4 million domestic firearm deaths.
As some might say, “Go figure !” Given these numbers and statistics, the obvious question must be: “Why don’t they fix this problem, why should they live with this, are they stupid ?” However whilst a reasonable series of things to say as an outsider, is it not so easy from an American perspective and much as they would want to, is it fixable anyway ?
The Other Perspective
I have a long connection with the US, visited on various occasions but only really got to get to grips with it whilst living and working there for a time and came to realise that like most polyglot societies, it is all very complex when it comes to making fundamental changes to all manner of things.
To start with, each State may have very different laws with regard to firearms that will reflect both the history and economic context of that particular place so to the surprise of many, New York has always had very strict firearm controls as some States have strict prohibitions on ‘concealed weapons’ hence the gun racks on the back windows of pick up trucks, guns must be openly displayed. It therefore follows that checks on people buying firearms from a registered dealer will also vary in their thoroughness, again a reminder than the legal gun trade is big business and as an example there were over 180,000 FBI checks for gun sales lodged on the recent Black Friday sales alone.
The problem here is just one of the sheer volume where it is estimated that there are over 300 million firearms in the USA and apparently mainly concentrated in the hands of 30% of the population. Even if you had a very unified checking process on people buying firearms right across the USA, it still wouldn’t deal with the key issue, their mental state and would only amount to the equivalent of a credit check anyway. Also there is an historical anomaly called “Gun Fairs” where guns are bought and sold without any checks what so ever because as one of my colleagues explained to me, he could sell me a gun fully aware that as a Brit ex-pat, I wasn’t allowed to have one in the US, me not being a citizen but he would not be guilty of a crime though I would be of illegal possession of a firearm.
In the UK following Hungerford and Dunblane, because there were very few owners of those type of firearms in the Country and all subject to a strict licensing procedure, it was easy to ban and remove them from circulation. That is not an option in the USA simply because of the scale of the problem, enough guns in circulation for virtually every adult and child in the US to have one plus the cultural context of a “Right to bear arms”.
No American citizen wants to see these events constantly repeating themselves, they don’t want themselves or their loved ones at constant risk of being gunned down by one deranged lunatic or another. And it really doesn’t wash for the NRA ( National Rifle Association ), to say that it is people who kill people not guns because the ready availability of firearms does in fact facilitate the deed and it is total BS to say that isn’t true.
How to Solve it ?
How the US rids itself of this problem I frankly have no idea and no serious suggestions to make but one thought does occur to me following these latest shootings in California: If ISIL really got its shit together, organised it properly and planned well ahead they could launch multiple Paris style attacks right across the US in just one day causing hundreds of casualties, even into the thousands. They wouldn’t have to smuggle any weapons in, all they could want for such outrages is right there waiting for them to pick up at your local gun store.
Sadly, even if this were to happen, the gun lobby would just take it as further justification to hold on to their weapons, it would not change a thing. Standing on the outside, most of us would just think this totally nuts and say “Surely they must…” but the simple truth is that each society has its own dynamic, history and fate and no amount of outside pressure will change the course of its destiny. Which brings me to the main point of this piece which is that standing on the outside of any country or situation, we should be very, very careful in casting judgement and appreciate that “They”, whoever they might be, just don’t think like us or feel like us.
One of the things I find ridiculous is how Western politicians and the Media feel that it is appropriate to judge other countries internal behaviours by “western standards” as if there was only one “standard” ! This type of attitude was common in the Victorian age of Empires when “Johnny Foreigner needed to be taught the right way to do things !” We laugh at those attitudes today and yet for all our supposed greater education and refinement still project that same kind of arrogance.
Sure, beheadings and stonings in Walthamstow High Street would not be acceptable but what the Saudis do in their own country is a different matter. By the same token, I find all the waffle about China’s human rights record distinctly offensive and not because I am particularly pro China but simply because it is insulting to ourselves. Whatever you think about China’s system of governance, the harsh truth is that they have to feed, clothe and shelter one fifth of all the human beings on this planet, a size of task no Western politician will ever face. To put it into perspective, today the EU is making a total horlicks of trying to sort out just 1 million refugees, Lord alone knows what they would do with over 1,000 times that number !
From the outside and lacking any responsibility for the situation, it is easy to point the finger and pontificate about what should be done but most often, it really isn’t quite that simple so perhaps we should always begin with some humility and start with trying to understand the context before we rush to judgement and tell others what they should do.