Sunday, May 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Armed With Chances; Poised For Change

As the United States faces its deadliest mass shooting, the 347th mass shooting this year alone, questions are once again being raised regarding the country’s lack of gun control. How many people have to die for change to happen?

28 people in Connecticut, 49 people in Orlando, 59 people in Las Vegas. The list of fatalities gets longer and more dizzying every day. The New York Times reports that, in the United States, there is at least one mass shooting a day. Yet, little is being done to amend or restrict the availability of the cause of these deaths – guns.

When the Titanic sank, boat safety regulations changed to ensure there would always be adequate lifeboats on board in future, so that a tragedy like it would never happen again.

Unfortunately, the United States seem unable to follow this mentality. This reality is even more harrowing given the plethora of things that are currently regulated more than assault rifles in the U.S., some of which include mundane items such as Kinder Surprise Eggs, birth control pills and Camembert cheese – of all things. One can’t help but feel that the United States’ policies and priorities need amending.

Over the years some efforts have been made to rectify the situation. For example, after the events of Orlando, John Lewis led a sit-in during a meeting of the House of Representatives, demanding a vote on gun violence legislation. However, it was largely unsuccessful in that it resulted in no new changes.

Since then, little else has done in the way of bringing about much needed change. It is hard not to compare their efforts with other countries.

After the 1996 massacre in Port Arthur in Australia, major reforms were made by John Howard’s government. The primary reform was the banning of rapid-fire weapons – there have been no mass shootings since.
Whilst many Americans would argue that the right to bear arms is part of being an American citizen, it is hard to ignore the fact that the amendment was ratified in 1791. At that time the deadliest arms available to the mass public were muskets and pistols, a far cry from the semi-automatics and assault rifles available today.

Still, with 300 million firearms in the U.S., gun culture is very much a part of the American way of life.

Is it possible to consider implementing such drastic change on so large a scale, and within a country that holds guns and their right to bear arms to such a high esteem? Historian Varad Mehta claims that such drastic measures could even potentially inspire further violence.

As such, the answer has to be a discussion about potential changes that must be made – greater background checks on buyers, restrictions on high-capacity magazines and the possibility of gun free spaces such as in bars, or public spaces. As Robert Kennedy said: “Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live”.

How much wiser does the United States have to be?