Gun control in US requires an attitude shift

December 8, 2015 5:33 am

 America has long had a reputation of wanting to police the world. It is well past time it policed itself. Photo / iStock

Gun sales in the have increased. Requests for access to courses at
shooting ranges are up. Students from at least one Christian school
have been encouraged to arm themselves. A New York Times
editorial (the first the paper has carried on its front page since 1920)
calling for stricter gun controls has had holes shot in it – literally.
And a politician sent her Christmas greetings complete with a family
photo with five adults and four young children – including her grandson –
showing off their guns.
Why is this type of reaction to last
week’s mass shootings in the US no surprise? What is the peculiar
irrationality that grips so many Americans when it comes to firearms?
The Times
editorial, headlined “The gun epidemic”, suggested reducing the number
of guns and “eliminating some large categories of weapons and
ammunition”. It turned its sights on the country’s now famous second
amendment, too: “It is not necessary to debate the peculiar wording of
the Second Amendment.

No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.” All reasonable points, one would have thought.
publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr also had a view for those who wondered
whether in this digital age page one of the print edition still had
power: “… the front page remains an incredibly strong and powerful way
to surface issues that demand attention. And, what issue is more
important than our nation’s failure to protect its citizens?” (Closer to
home, the overwhelmingly positive reaction from readers to this paper’s
front page on Friday – “Who will end this madness” – amply demonstrated
Mr Sulzberger’s point).

From this distance, most can but wonder how some form of
stricter gun controls have not already been adopted in the US. Yes, the
strength of the gun lobby is well known and, obviously by some
politicians, feared. “Guns don’t kill people: people kill people” has
been a common refrain for many years. There is some little truth to that
response, but it is in reality a weak argument.
Australia proved
in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre that, even in the face of a
powerful gun lobby, stricter controls can be implemented, including
restrictions on certain types of weapons and vetting of gun licence
holders. Regulations alone, however, are not enough. To win this battle,
the US needs to win the hearts and minds of its people towards guns and
gun control. It is a matter of changing attitudes – much as own our
society’s positions towards drink-driving, wearing seatbelts and even
smoking have become far less tolerant.

There is a debate happening in this country about access to
firearms, too. That discussion will only intensify here. While many of
us – especially those who believe in the concept of personal
responsibility – rue the attitude of introducing legislation to try to
cover every eventuality, in this case in the US saner heads must
prevail. As for the suggestions of some the solution is to further arm
the populace? That is, quite frankly, lunacy. America has long had a
reputation of wanting to police the world. It is well past time it
policed itself.

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