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The United States of America – not united on Guns

When you think of the USA, what comes to mind? Baseball. The Statue of Liberty. Hot-Dogs. Hollywood. Guns. The list is endless, but yes, unfortunately what sticks out in this list is guns.

On October 1st, 26 year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer shot dead nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Nine others were injured, and Harper-Mercer then turned the gun on himself following a battle with police. Sadly, if you type “Oregon Shooting” into your search engine, you are presented with four different shootings – three of which occurred in a place of education. That is only Oregon. Many other shootings come to mind. Columbine. Sandy Hook. Aurora. Virginia Tech.

And while there was also a shooting in Florida on the same day as the massacre in Oregon, neither made headlines in specific forums – especially not on the NRA (National Rifle Association) Twitter account. The NRA is the chief advocate for stopping gun control; hence why the NRA Twitter account was pretty quiet during the shooting and the aftermath. The NRA throws various statistics around such as “Less than 1 per cent of criminals get their guns from gun shows.” Why would a criminal go to a gun show to buy their guns? Unless they planned on getting caught pretty quickly then they would certainly not buy their merchandise from a gun show.

What it does show, somewhat, is at least some regulation and laws are in place, even if it is just to appease the anti-gun crowd. The NRA prides itself on educating about firearms in order to promote safety through its Eddie the Eagle programme. How successful, is open to interpretation.

Fox News claimed on Tuesday: “Australia has no freedom because it has gun control”. Australia does have gun control. But that does not mean they cannot enjoy freedom. Australians can use firearms provided they have a license and meet the criteria. It is a common misconception that they are all completely outlawed. In fact, most developed nations have similar limits on firearms. America is lagging behind. The central Australian government coordinated with the state governments and sets of regulations were drawn up. Progress was made because people were open to ideas.

That is both sides of the argument. Gun owners don’t want their rights infringed, and those who want gun control will never be satisfied unless guns are gone completely and immediately. What’s more, politicians try to avoid the debate because of the endless political implications such as risking losing funding and votes.

There have been suggestions of a link between the Mercer family’s mental health and the shooting, as there usually is when a shooting occurs. Blaming it on mental health is seen as a great get-out clause when trying to find a reason for the shooting, again on both sides of the argument. But why is it that mental health is always carrying the blame for these actions? Depression, instability and social-isolation are often held responsible even if unproven, and many suffer from these conditions without going on a murder rampage.

The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution gives American’s the right to keep and bear arms in their country, and is the main barrier in gun control legislation taking place. Even though it was written in 1791, it remains in force today, while the 18th amendment which banned the manufacturing and selling of alcohol in the United States was repealed in 1933, a clear indication that it is more than possible to edit or even revoke major legislation.

Anyone over the age of 18 can buy a rifle or shotgun from a licensed dealer in all 50 states. Non-US citizens cannot own a weapon; neither can convicted criminals and those with recorded mental illnesses. Laws then become more specific depending on which state in terms of what can be owned and how it can be carried, but how effective are these laws, when they are so open for interpretation?

Despite its various flaws, I love America. I really do. I just wish that Americans would pull together in order to fix its gun problem before many more lives are lost. Gun crime in America is becoming an increasingly controversial issue when, as one of the most developed countries in the world, it is still failing to act on the issue and change legislation. One thing for sure is the eyes of the western world are on America to change their gun laws.

 

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