I rather fancied knocking up a few words on gun control after a fascinating chat today with a friend on the subject of gun control here and overseas.
Journalistically, I hope I am able to show appreciation for all arguments - but in the UK, it boils down to pro gunners arguing for the right to enjoy their sport and anti gunners pointing out that the more guns are available, the more opportunity there is for guns to be misused - and to a greater extent, this is certainly true.
I personally enjoy shooting (with sighted spotters and under controlled conditions) and I don't have any problem with those who do not pose a risk to the public peace owning firearms. Indeed I have long held the view that we tend in the UK to introduce rather knee jerk legislation such as that seen in the horrible Hamilton case 15 years ago - and I intend to return to my own thoughts on gun control in the UK.
In the United States, the argument is much simpler. Yes pro and anti gun lobbies argue on the same lines as we do in the UK, but for Americans, it boils down to individual freedom and of course the right to bear arms as per the 2nd amendment to the United States Constitution. I also believe (and I stand to be corrected) that in order to change the Constitution, 80% of Americans would have to vote for it. This simply isn't going to happen.
I rather like the policy of the Colorado Governor not to mention the name of the Denver coward - and so I shall join him in reframing from doing so - but it will not be lost on the most right or left wing American that laws have never been made to legislate after the fact to the actions of an individual and the concept of with freedom comes responsibility dominates strongly - however anti individuals may be.
The Constitution in the States, based on the English Bill of Rights assures Citizens the ability to own any item they like - although individual States have their own laws - laws that are often overturned on challenge to the US Supreme Court.
When discussing this issue, I see the very clear difference in the general attitude of the UK - which is much more one of wanting the government to protect us from ourselves. If that floats your boat, then great, but try to understand that left or right, Americans come at this from an angle of individual responsibility and freedom. The old expression goes that 'we want to keep the Republicans out of our bedrooms and the Democrats out of our wallets" - but even a higher tax, greater state control position of politics has it's limitations.
Moving back closer to home, we have seen many nasty incidents involving monstrous use of guns int he UK - and indeed many cases of gun crime, often black on black gun crime isn't reported in the same way as it would be if a young blond white girl got shot. I'm not suggesting any untoward attitude to race in the media (I would argue to the contrary) but there are many cases that never make it to the nationals. We can however think of some high profile incidents - ignoring your Moat's and Reeve's of this world, let's list the cases involving legally held firearms that I can think of off the top of my head.
* Michael Ryan in Hungerford in 1987.
* James Hamilton in 1996.
* Derek Bird in 2011
* The case in Durham last Christmas where a man shot himself and some relatives.
Now if we put those cases in to proportion - (and for argument sake, though I can't think of any others off the top of my head - add 20 cases to be more than conservative about this) all these cases fail to feature as a blip in the overall statistics.
* There are currently around 550,000 Shotgun Certificates in the UK.
* There are under 150,000 firearms Certificates for rifles etc (and many certificate holders ALSO hold shotgun certificates(.
* 1% of shotgun certificate holders would be 5,500.
* .1% of 5,500 is 55.
The number of incidents involving legally owned firearms are minute in the UK - and so I suggest our problems in the UK is with illegally held firearms. There are hundreds and thousands of incidents each year with those.
Just an observation.
So moving on to the common ground between UK and US gun law - how on earth are the police, or anyone else for that matter expected to be absolutely certain about someone's future actions? We as people can make judgements about others - and the police and medical profession can do likewise by looking at a person's history.
Shooting is worth billions to the US economy as it is in the UK to a lesser extent - and of course firearms sales are vitally important to the UK.
Sadly some people do bad things... why punish the 550,000 who never would and why punish ourselves if we don't happen to hold certificates? Ben Franklin said "those who would trade freedom with security will lose both and deserve neither".
Just my ramblings.
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