The Arizona Shootings

I was dismayed and saddened yet again that there has been another tragic shooting in America. The investigation after the event shows that the prime suspect had been planning the attack for some time. While it is very difficult to investigate events before they happen through intelligence gathering and monitoring the web, it is possible to limit access to the kind of gun that was used for this tragedy.

The NRA and gun lobby remind us that ‘guns do not kill people, people kill people.’ But weaponry is not irrelevant. Weaponry is a tool that raises the capacity of the attacker and gives him or her the kind of material capability that can lead to death. The probability of death resulting from firearms is much higher than other weaponry. Limiting access to weaponry alongside good intelligence are the two main things that can be done to reduce the probability of events such as this playing out in the ways that they do.

In the UK, handguns for personal use were banned after the Dunblane masscare of schoolchildren, and there was some domestic political opposition, but the logic of the argument was strong and persuasive. It did appear that there was more domestic opposition to the ban on fox hunting with hounds than the ban on handguns.

Does the UK have gun crime? Yes. Do people get killed as a result of gun crime? Yes. But the per capita murder rate by handguns is dramatically lower than in the US.

The 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution protects the right to bear arms. It was written in the 18th Century shortly after Independence as was meant to provide a means for the new American states to raise a citizen militia to defend the new nation. In the 21st Century, America has a modern military, and national guard, police, FBI, ATF among other agencies to protect the citizenry.

Other parts of the US Constitution have been revised through subsequent Amendments, such as the 14th Amendment, which applied the equal protection clause to all states and paved the way for the historic Brown v Board of Education decision that ended formal racial segregation. The 22nd Amendment limits the terms of Presidents to two terms of four years after the fourth electoral victory of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

With these and many other examples of the US Constitution growing and evolving with technological and philosophical advances, can it not be changed for the access to guns? Yes, the gun lobby is strong and yes some of their arguments about personal defence and liberty are persuasive, but a relatively unfettered access to guns makes events like Sunday’s tragedy in Arizona almost inevitable.

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