The events in Las Vegas last weekend go beyond any superlative we can come up with. How any human being can inflict that sort of treatment on their fellow man is, literally, beyond our comprehension.
The killing of almost 60 people and injuring of more than 500 takes it way beyond anything we have seen up until now. That is not in any way to trivialise previously similar incidents – not at all – any loss of life is tragic, of course but the killing spree by 64 year old former accountant and millionaire Stephen Paddock seems, at any rate, to have ‘re-defined’ this issue. At least for non-Americans it has. Whilst the rest of world looked on it utter disbelief at the events outside the Mandalay Bay hotel, many an American was heading for their local gun store to replenish their stock of ammunition and maybe even add to their already impressive, if deeply troubling and totally unnecessary arsenal of weapons.
( Stephen Paddock had a selection of weapons that almost defied belief and yet appeared to commit this atrocity without motive).
In the UK, in Scotland, mass shootings still hit a nerve as many of us still recall the fateful events of Dunblane in March 1996. Our revulsion at those events was so palpable that the Scottish, indeed the British people and the then UK government vowed that it would not happen again. Legislation was hastily passed and, touch wood, we have never had a similar incident. That is not to say we have never had another shooting or, God forbid, that it may not happen again at some point in the future but over two decades have passed without a repeat of those gruesome sights in the primary school in Perthshire.
But we must remember that guns are NOT an intrinsic way of life here. In America, to say it is a way of life would be an understatement. It goes immeasurably beyond that. There is an alarming and completely unhealthy obsession with them which we simply do not get.
I suspect it stems, in part, from the American revolution in 1776 when they rebelled against the British to win their independence. But that is almost 250 years ago. For many an American ‘the gun’ seems to represent the very heart of their nation’s actual identity – almost symbolic of their freedom. They featured heavily even from childhood with games of ‘cowboys and indians ‘ and ‘ cops and robbers’. Everywhere you look in American culture and sub- culture, guns, firearms, feature with extraordinary prominence.
Their beloved constitution ( an alien concept to us), their even more beloved ‘2nd amendment’ – their ‘right to bear arms’ – and the ferocious and insistent manner in which nothing, and I mean nothing, will come in the way of it. As early as Monday morning in the UK, still only around midnight in Las Vegas and there were Americans all over social media not offering prayers or condolences for their slain fellow Americans but ranting to ensure that people realise the right for them to bear arms has no boundaries and nothing will defeat it, or supersede it. The insensitivity of the comments in general, and certainly the timing of them, merely re-affirmed in my mind what a scary and reckless bunch they are.
Undoubtedly, some Americans, in relation to firearms ( though no doubt in respect of other matters too) are utterly fanatical. The slightly bizarre loose cannon that was Sarah Palin, former vice-presidential nominee once said, ” Jesus would fight for our second amendment…” – Sorry…? Excuse me…? Thank God should never took office. Wouldn’t it be terrible if we had an incumbent at the White House who showed a consistently haughty manner coupled with a clearly unhealthy interest in power and firearms. Oh wait…hang on a minute……………………………..
I suppose one grain of hope was that Obama has often gone on record as saying that his failure to pass ‘ common sense gun safety laws’ was his greatest frustration of his time as president. But Congress and the lobbyists on Capitol Hill are a powerful and often impenetrable bunch. Whilst a few ‘tweet’ their disgust at their country’s whole attitude to firearms, for the majority, the silence is deafening.
As at 2015, the population of the USA was estimated to be 321,000,000 and the UK at 64,000,000. There were 90 firearms per 100 people compared to 6 in the UK. There were 59 shooting incidents at educational establishments and 0 in the UK. 30 people lost their lives in Britain that year through gun-related incidents compared to 12,570 in the US.
Clearly, Dunblane shocked us as a nation – to our core. We now have some of the tightest gun control legislation anywhere in the world and, of course still do not have routinely armed Police.
So what is it that makes Americans obsessive about this issue? What is it, that despite mass shootings almost happening as a ‘norm’, nothing is done, or appears to be done.Las Vegas was an atrocity on a scale never seen since America was involved in a war. At Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, 26 people were shot dead by a lone gunman – but 20 of them were 6 and 7 year olds. Nothing was done. Congress stood firm. The NRA became more vocal than ever.
One answer is that Americans see a periodic mass shooting like Las Vegas and even Sandy Hook as a necessary evil when the 2nd amendment remains in force. These victims are almost seen as collateral damage. The guy on the radio on Monday morning actually tried to turn this whole argument round and promulgate that, in actual fact, the shootings that have occurred were ‘small potatoes’ in relation to the actual level of gun ownership.
A remarkably twisted argument, made all the more surreal by the tone adopted of self-righteous justification by the person making it.
To make matters worse, the NRA ( the inexplicably powerful National Rifle Association) used to have as its’ mantra, ” (the) only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun….. is a good guy with a gun “. I am not even going to dignify that with a comment on that, such is my utter disdain at it.
So what factors also must exist in the minds of Americans when it comes to their gun-toting sub-culture?
Availability, for sure. In certain states you can buy a firearm before you can buy a beer, and often without any real scrutiny or background checks. Before you can buy a beer.
With so many people routinely owning a gun, like we may own a mobile, it possibly just seems more logical than not to have one.
There must be social and cultural pressure – if you grow up in a culture where it is the norm and seemingly so perfectly acceptable, the imposition of regulations can be difficult.
Alas, there will be nothing done about gun control following the carnage at Las Vegas. That is for certain. The only other matter that is for certain is that it WILL happen again. And again. And again. It is a endless, cultural cycle in a country that, to the rest of us seems more out of control, reckless and divided than ever.
Thanks for stopping by folks….and have a good day.