In light of the recent shooting at the school in Newtown, Connecticut I have felt the need to put some thoughts regarding mass killings down in writing. If for nothing else, in the hope to perhaps get some personal clarity on the ongoing phenomena. There are a multitude of issues which need addressing and I will start with the most popular, guns.
The 2nd Amendment, like all good English, is written such that it is open to all sorts of interpretation. It states:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
This right, came from the mindset of those who had just fought a revolutionary war against the English. Men who saw first hand that people could be downtrodden, and if defenseless, ruled by tyranny. The statement, "A well regulated militia" indicates that they believed trained men bearing arms was important to ensuring this new found freedom. However it isn't clear whether general personal protection was on their minds. It is however, this self protection that is so vigorously defended by advocates of gun ownership, not necessarily the idea of defending freedom.
More to the point, I can't help but feel that all this is out of date. Many other laws have changed since the time of the American forefathers so clinging so passionately to this one without question must be queried in times like these. Take this quote from the movie With Honors featuring Joe Pesci,
"Our "founding parents" were pompous, white, middle-aged farmers, but they were also great men. Because they knew one thing that all great men should know: that they didn't know everything. Sure, they'd make mistakes, but they made sure to leave a way to correct them."
In essence, the constitution is not written in stone, the American people need to adapt their laws to meet the circumstances of the current day. The idea that gun owners are protecting themselves from home invasions and tyrannical takeovers doesn't really fly. Neither situation saves children from school shootings. Also, even though perhaps an organised militia may be able to fend off a tyrannical government, though unlikely considering the type of warfare practiced by the US military. So here it seems, that clinging to the constitution goes against the very spirit of it as much as demanding change.
When the news of the shooting broke, I posed the question on twitter whether "Maybe the need to protect all now outweighs the want of self protection?" And one response I received by (I suspect) a gun owner was this, "Nope. I'm here to provide and protect my family." This seems to be the typical answer to the gun control question, however the mentality frightened me. The point I was making was perhaps it would be better to give up the gun under the pillow, knowing your loved ones would be safer when you weren't their to protect them?
To be sure, smarter people than I have debated this topic, I don't have an answer and both pro and anti gun parties make good arguments. One thing I do know is this, the half arsed laws which may be passed such as banning the selling of new assault rifles won't fix things. The guns would need to be removed completely with buy back schemes, etc to actually make an impact. This is what was done in Australia post the Port Arthur massacre and years on, we haven't had another event so tragic. It is starting to feel like it is every other week in the United States.
The law isn't the only thing impeding stricter gun laws however, there also seems to be a romanticism about guns in the US, they have become a symbol of freedom and protection rather than a tool of killing and destruction. Blame this on whatever you want, the war of independence, the 2nd amendment, John Wayne or video games.
This leads the discussion into the social angle, as America's idol culture is just as much a part of the problem from a mental point of view as the guns are from a physical point of view. The American media idolised actors, musicians, sports stars, etc and this culture of the celebrity has people searching for their own 15 minutes of fame. Being famous has become a goal unto itself, regardless of the reason behind it. It has been found that the media treatment of the serial killers does in fact inspire copy cats and this is consistent with the celebrity culture. The serial killers are given 24 hour news coverage, their lives are dissected and their infamy soon becomes part of the American pop culture landscape.
The American cultural discussion goes further in that the projected view of America is one of an advanced, civilized society where such tragic events simply cannot happen. To illustrate my point, think if such a tragedy happened in say, Brazil, people may simply dismiss it as part of the norm in a poor, violent and third world developing nation. However, in America, which faces many of the same issues of poverty and violence it is seen as unacceptable. This Hollywood mindset comes from a projected view from the America media that in the self proclaimed greatest country on Earth, a tragic event such as a school shooting can't happen.
This re-iterates the responsibility that the media has for fueling this ongoing celebrity obsession, as America itself is presented as a celebrity and all publicity is good publicity in this case. It isn't in the media's interest, to stop this type of presentation until people stop watching, as I'm sure they rate really well. The sensationalist tabloid style works for them, which means it is making them money.
That leaves us with the real reason behind the lack of change... money. Money is dictating the solution to the gun violence problem and unfortunately in accounting terms, the deaths of 20 or so innocent school children doesn't match up against the money being turned around throughout the gun industry. The sales spikes which occur after these tragedy speak volumes. Seeing as their are a whole lot more guns in America than iPhones (approx 6million iPhones versus 270million guns), it is obviously big, big business. So a crack down on ownership will obviously impact the industry and without going into details, you know their would be some powerful and influential people making sure they don't get financially impacted.
My conclusion is, tragically, that in the grand scheme of things, the murder of people in schools, shopping centres and movie theaters really isn't a big sociopolitical issue outside of the limited media hype. It is a piece of drama which impacts a few people directly and one which Americans will have to live with until a radical shift in the national mentality is adopted. One which needs many reforms, including but not limited to the gun laws.