Last weekend in Las Vegas we saw the latest in a sickening string of incidents involving a man with a weapon, or in this case 21 weapons. By the time 64 year old Stephen Paddock had finished shooting innocent concert goers from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, 58 people were dead or dying and 500 more were injured. The deadly assault weapons he had taken to the hotel were all perfectly legal. Presumably he had bought many of them in gun shops and other stores which have a gun section among the other sports departments.
On a recent trip across America, whilst crossing Nevada, we spoke to a young woman from the University of Reno, and she told us of a debate going on there at the time, between those who thought only concealed weapons should be allowed on campus and those who felt that guns should not only be allowed but should be on show, “so that you can all see what they are packing”! This gives an insight perhaps into where the USA is on guns now.
Many people cling to the belief that ‘it’s not the guns but the people who use them’ idea. Other reasonable folk think that there is so much crime and violence in US towns and cities that you need a gun in the house to protect your family. You can often hear talk of ‘the Second Amendment giving the right to bear arms’.
After recent similar dreadful and distressing incidents President Obama spoke many times about the need for the US to take a different course and make it much more difficult to get weapons. However, the NRA (National Rifle Association) is far too powerful a lobby to allow the changes in law to get through, even if the elected politicians were to favour the changes. The NRA believes that guns make the country safer, and it spends $3 million per year to influence gun policy and much more to support the campaigns of politicians like Trump who oppose gun controls.
The statistics make grim reading:-
There are more guns per capita in the USA than any other country – there are over 270 million in all.
There have been 90 mass shootings since 1982, but these count for just a tiny number of those killed by guns.
You can buy a handgun in the USA for $200.
On average each year around 1300 children die from gunshots.
In 2014 88 Americans were shot dead, on average, every day: 58 killed themselves while 30 were murdered.
The reality is that an American is at least twice as likely to be shot dead by a toddler than killed by a terrorist.
How long must this carnage go on? It seems inconceivable that so many apparently sane and reasonable people can continue to support the present gun regulations. Until these laws change we shall continue to hear of tragic events like the one in Las Vegas last weekend.