The terrible events in Newtown last week have quite rightly reverberated around the world. There can be no response to such things other than sorrow and anguished silence. If anything, the shock was greater even than that caused by 9/11: bringing such targeted, calculated violence to what should have been a place of nurture and safety was a crime beyond words.
But if sorrow was universal, silence was not. The echoes of the gunshots at Sandyhook had hardly died away before the clamour of justifying cliches began. Guns don’t kill people, people do. Guns keep people safe - if only someone in the school had been armed. What this proves is that you have to keep guns out of the hands of nutjobs. It could only happen because there’s no prayer in the public schools. Yada yada yada.
How many of these mass shootings must the US endure before its people come to their senses and realise that they have a massive problem with firearms? How many more children have to die?
The right to bear arms is deeply ingrained and highly cherished, but I’m obliged to ask: is that right worth even the life of one child? (Someone else’s child, presumably)
Surely it is time for the US to give up it’s selectively fundamentalist reading of the 2nd amendment. Selectively? Yes, indeed. The ‘right to bear arms’ is predicated on the need for ‘a well-regulated militia’. But it is no longer true that a ‘well-regulated Militia’ is ‘necessary to the security of a free State’. Where in the modern civilised world would you find such a thing? Certainly not the good old US of A. In any case, as many others have pointed out, this amendment was made at a time when a typical firearm was hand made, single shot, slow to load and of limited range: a far cry from the weapons which are widely available to Joe Public today. Every preacher knows, or should know, that a text without a context is just a pretext. What’s true of the Bible is just as true of the US constitution and its amendments. Context is everything.
Much has been made of Adam Lanza’s mental health, but the more important question is what these event tell us about the collective mental health of a nation addicted to gun ownership. The simple truth is that the US has far too many firearms for its own good. Paranoia about personal safety and security has driven a society to accept levels of violence that would cause an outcry in most other western nations. People keep guns for their own protection, and in so doing make everyone more vulnerable to their misuse.
But there is an easy way for the law-abiding to prove that they’re not addicted to their weapons: give them up. Hand them over. Get them decommissioned. But don’t give in to the demon voices telling you that you need them to keep you safe.
Because they’re killing you. And your children.