Time For Change – Lydia Torrington

So far in 2018, it may shock you to know there have been 33 mass shootings in the USA. You will probably not have heard about most of these owing to the fact that someone is not always killed in every attack but, by definition of mass shooting, at least four people have been injured or killed by a gun each time. There have been 1,624 shootings in 1,870 days – meaning there is a mass shooting on 9 out of every 10 days on average. Since December 2012, 1,800 people have lost their lives in mass shootings, and 6,400 people have been wounded. No matter what your stance on gun control in the US, you cannot look at the figures without knowing that something is alarmingly wrong with the current situation, and when you remember that these are not just figures, they are lives and families and villages that are affected, it is hard to justify why nothing should be done to end this.

Let’s compare figures of gun-related crime in the US to that of the rest of the world and we find that gun homicide rates are 25.2 times higher than in other high-income countries. Furthermore, Americans are 51 times more likely to be killed by gunfire than people in the United Kingdom. Of course, you will be reading these facts and thinking that of course gun crime is lower in countries where owning a firearm is prohibited than in the country which owns 48% of the guns owned in the world. However, these figures just serve to prove that gun crime would be dramatically reduced with the reduction and eventually the removal of firearms in the USA. In fact in a survey in 2013, 60% of gun owners said that they owned a gun for personal safety and protection, so if the danger of gun attacks was removed, these people would find no need to own a gun themselves. So how can Donald Trump and many other members of congress find reason to keep the Second amendment in place in order to ‘protect’ US citizens, when in fact you can see that its very existence is the reason for extremely high rates of gun crime?

The reason for this can be simply explained through the word bribery. The National Rifle Association is a hugely powerful and rich organisation that advocates gun rights. It was started in 1871 by William Church and George Wingate in order to protect the second amendment, but since then it has grown exponentially and it now claims to have 5 million members. For many decades, it has been the NRA that blocks federal action related to guns. This has been things as innocent as research into gun violence. However, this is not the only way the NRA has a huge influence on the gun control debate and since 1977, it’s motives now seems to be less pure. In 2016, the NRA spent a shocking $19.7 million to oppose the anti-guns Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate, and a further $9.8 to support the pro-guns Donald Trump. It is therefore no surprise that this support hugely helps and that we now find ourselves with Donald Trump in power. It is perhaps also not surprising that many aspiring American politicians choose to back the second amendment in order to obtain the substantial monetary support that the NRA provides. Although I think it is intrinsically wrong to go against your beliefs and morals for personal gain, in a country where money equals political power, I can understand the desperation of those without sufficient means. However, fair politics is not be controlled by money.

After the recent shooting at a school in Parkland where 17 people were killed, a poll by CNN found that 70% of people back stricter gun laws. In reality, only 27% of the American public oppose stricter laws. In the same poll, a shocking 6 in 10 people say that they are worried about a family member becoming a victim of gun violence. It is clear that change is needed and wanted by America, but the NRA is the only thing standing in the way of a safer country. I am not proposing an instant ban on all carrying of guns, this is ludicrous, unrealistic and not wanted by most Americans. However, I think the first step on this road to change is to introduce a law to prevent convicted felons and those with serious mental health problems from being able to own a gun. This seems like such a simple and blindingly obvious change which is in fact supported by 87% of the public (February this year). However, the NRA is against this policy, and even supports terrorists being able to buy guns as and when they wish. And when the NRA refuses these changes, so do the Republicans in Congress that the NRA support – so the bill isn’t passed. Coincidence? As in stands, known or suspected terrorists are prohibited from boarding American airplanes, but can buy any guns – including assault rifles. In fact, more than 2,000 terror suspects have bought guns in the USA. The American government is essentially giving killing machines to killers, and then appearing to be shocked and distraught if and when these killers use the weapons to cause destruction. The poor excuse from some members of Congress is that it is the people behind the guns that are the problem, not the gun’s fault. It is true that these murderers are despicable people and that all the blame should not be placed on a gun, but the simple truth is that the action of a mass shooting cannot be carried out without a gun, something that the US Government provides for its people. Take away the weapon, and you disarm the murderer.

Concluding my somewhat controversial article, I hope I have opened your eyes wider to what I believe is a huge corruption of Democracy in the country supposedly at the forefront of the Free World. Although you may argue that members of Congress and their decisions represent the people of America, it must be understood that in the US, politics is in fact a game of money and power. Being that the NRA has those two things in huge quantities, the gun laws in America will not change until politicians feel free to speak their own personal opinions, not influenced or pressurised by any outside powerhouses. Until then, innocent people will continue to be massacred at the hand of this dangerous but dispensable killing machine. Thus it is the responsibility of our generation to create future politicians and leaders that are unafraid to create change, that are unafraid to overrule parts of the American constitution which seem to be written in stone. As put so succinctly by American lawyer Eliot Spitzer “Yes, people pull the trigger – but guns are the instrument of death. Gun control is necessary, and delay means more death and horror”.

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