Wild West or Mild East? Could America Survive Draconian Gun Control?
MICHAEL J BLAIR
When I was a child, I loved Western movies and all that went with them. The OK Corral. Pat Garret. Billy the Kid. Wyatt Earp. Jesse James etcetera.
The romance of the gun fight and cemeteries called Boot Hill. I spent a lot of my childhood in hospital, so I read a lot, which passed the time between morphine injections. God, that stuff was good…..
I knew the name of every outlaw and the number of people they had killed. I also knew the name of every heavyweight boxing champion from Gentleman Jim Jeffries to Sonny Liston. Yes, I was a seriously boring child!
The Old West was full of heroes and villains. It was where the proper gun fight originated. It was a variation on the European duel, but made interesting. These guys were portrayed as fearless, cold-eyed killers and heroes, but in reality they were often cowards who shot their enemies in the back. Or, given the inaccuracies of revolvers, innocent bystanders were killed, and the reality of dying in agony from a bullet to the gut over several days was never mentioned!
On television, I watched every cowboy show made. The Lone Ranger, Bronco Lane, with Ty Hardin, Laramie, Gunsmoke etcetera. Wonderful escapist entertainment for a wee laddie in Harris tweed underpants! Did I mention my mother always worried I might catch cold?
That’s where my fascination for America and all things American began. I also watched all the old gangster movies and knew the names of all the actors and to a lesser extent, actresses. Veronica Lake was a particular favourite! George Raft was great, as was James Cagney. They played cool calculating killers who didn’t give a damn about authority.
I’m seeing a definite theme here. This may explain an awful lot about my thinking and general attitude to authority!
As I got older, I realised American culture was more to my taste than the home grown, insipid slop made for a grey, dull population, which we watched on three channels. Even in black and white, the American shows dazzled with excitement and possibilities. But this was all make believe and mostly had little to do with real life.
The realities of life in parts of America were far removed from the glossy versions shown on television and cinema.
Over the last few decades, mass shootings in America have sadly become a regular occurrence. The innocent die and usually the shooter killed by his own hand. So we rarely know what triggered these tragedies.
The idea of anything like that happening in Britain seemed quite impossible, but as time has moved on from the sixties, we have experienced several mass shootings. There was Hungerford, where a lone gunman, Michael Ryan, killed 16 people in August 1987. This was the first mass shooting in Britain, and made headlines around the world because it was such an unusual event. Ryan killed himself, so we still have no real idea why he killed so many innocent people.
There were no cries of “we must all be armed” from the survivors or the relatives of the dead. But there were calls for more laws and safeguards regarding gun control. These calls were heeded and much more stringent rules were drawn up to try to prevent a similar event taking place.
The politicians said “lessons will be learned” as usual, but this time it seemed like lessons had been learned. Or at least for a few years. In March 1996, a heavily armed man walked into a school in Dunblane in Perthshire, Scotland and shot 18 people, mostly children, dead and badly injured 15 more.
This man, Thomas Hamilton, was a member of a gun club and a Scout Master. His reason for killing so many innocent people will never be known, as he shot himself dead as police tried to talk him into giving himself up.
This was a defining moment in British gun control. New legislation was fast-tracked through parliament despite the complaints of unfairness to people who genuinely belonged to gun clubs and were responsible human beings. Our Olympic shooting teams now had to move abroad for training, as their weapons were now banned.
Can you imagine what would happen if laws like this were introduced to the USA? There would be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the more rabid side of the gun owning citizens. There would be legal challenges galore and possibly armed insurrection by the “survivalist” groups.
In some states I could see civil war breaking out. Would the police and the National Guard act in the interests of the government or side with the NRA?
Could the country survive the draconian gun control needed to rid the country of the disease of mass shootings and random killing?
Imagine three-year-olds not having the means to accidentally shoot their parents or siblings because of the stupidity of leaving firearms in open view and easy reach! No guns would mean people could be careless with some less deadly items.
The “oh I forgot the gun was in my purse” could be changed to, “oh I forgot the lipstick was in my purse”! All you would need to clean up would be red lip gloss instead of red blood stains!
Back in the dark ages, people in Britain killed each other in a huge number of gruesome ways, and when firearms were introduced, they proceeded to use this new innovation inventively. Luckily, there were many, many wars to be fought and the blood lust was generally sated by hacking lumps out of French and Spanish soldiers and sailors!
As a more civilised society emerged, wars became less frequent and most of the firearms were owned by the nobility and landed gentry. The commoners had little or no access to guns. This has really been the way in Britain over the centuries, which stopped a gun culture emerging.
America, on the other hand, is a county forged by settlers who decided they had the right to take as much land as they wanted, despite it not belonging to them. All this land grabbing was at the point of a gun.
“We want your land and if you don’t give it to us, we’ll shoot you, and every member of your tribe if necessary, and kill every Bison on the prairie!”
In fact it’s very similar to the colonisation by Britain of its Empire. The difference is that Britain was a country ruled by the upper classes and used its army to grab land, it was ordinary people who risked their lives to forge the nation. These people had access to huge quantities of firearms. There were few if any restrictions on gun ownership. This was and is still, more or less the case.
The gun culture in America is engrained in the psyche of the population! No matter how many people are slaughtered, the gun lobby will never accept changes to limit the number of weapons sold. There is too much money at stake and in the largest capitalist economy on the planet, money is God.
There are no easy answers to this problem. I’m never in favour of banning. This always leads to a huge black market and more mayhem. (Drugs are a perfect example of how banning doesn’t work)
I know there are many very responsible gun owners who would feel persecuted by a wholesale ban on firearms. There are many lives which would be saved by a ban, so it’s a delicate balance to achieve. And I don’t believe it could be enforced effectively in a country the size of the USA.
People say they need to protect themselves from gun wielding thugs and that’s probably true, but if guns didn’t exist, there would be no fear of that. Obviously that scenario isn’t going to happen, so we need to think about other solutions.
The answer is probably in education and keeping guns out of the hands of minors and idiots. This could also be problematic, as there are so many idiots around! Minors may actually be smarter!
America is a wonderful and diverse country, which is blighted by the way firearms are used. A complete rethink on responsible ownership is badly needed but I have my doubts on the possibility of that happening.
Maybe the next generation will be more likely to grasp the nettle of gun control and education. We can but hope!
ALSO BY MJ BLAIR
Michael J Blair contributes political analysis to DDA, and he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His Twitter handle is: @mmjblair