We think of England as being fairly ‘gun-free’ these days, don’t we? We are not a people who buy hand guns with which to defend our homes and families. It’s not gun-free, though. England is a country where guns have long played a part. Sometimes quite a big part.
That part has usually been a huntin’, shootin’ and fishing’ type of part, with some important exceptions: in times of war, obviously, guns have played a more prominent role, and in times of lawlessness and lack of good policing (the 16th & 17th centuries, for instance), people who could afford them would carry guns on long trips for protection against highwaymen, or to venture into known trouble-spots in towns at night.
In recent centuries, however, it has become rare to see a gun that was not in the hands of a) the police, b) the army, or c) competitors at a sporting event. Now, there are criminals, of course, who wouldn’t dream of going out without a loaded weapon of some kind, but on the whole, normal, ordinary, good people do not walk out of their houses with any kind of weapon at all – let alone a loaded pistol in a specially made secret pocket in their handbag, and certainly not to pop down to Sainsbury’s for a loaf of bread. It kind of boggles the average English mind. It boggles the average Irish, Welsh and Scots mind, too, come to that1.
Quite apart from being illegal to do such a thing, to carry a loaded gun in your handbag requires a mentality I simply do not understand. If you’re that terrified of being attacked, it’s going to do you absolutely no good at all to carry a gun securely zipped into your bag anyway, especially if you then leave said bag in your shopping trolley along with your two-year-old child while you browse the shelves.
Tragically, this did happen, and it happened very recently in a supermarket in America. Tragically, the two-year-old had the time and opportunity to rifle through the bag, find the zipped pocket, unzip it, extract the gun and shoot his mother in the head – and she died. It was said that she only left him unattended for ‘a moment’.
While being desperately sad for the family, and the young woman who died, I find myself mostly fretting over the poor little boy who will likely never get over what he did. He may not remember consciously, but somewhere in the recesses of his brain there will be the imprint of the trauma; an imprint of the time he played with Mommy’s ‘toy’ gun and it went bang and she fell over and some people took her away, and she never came home again. I have visions of him screaming for her at night and crying himself to sleep. One day, when he is older, he will ask for details of her death, and what will they tell him?
The dead mother is described as having ‘grown up around guns’ in a very gun-oriented family. She hunted. She shot at a gun club. She’d done safety courses on hand-guns. She was ‘responsible’. Well, I’m sorry to disagree, but to my mind she wasn’t actually very responsible if she left a gun in her bag in the trolley with her child. Guns are dangerous.
Oh, I can hear the gun lobby in the background muttering things like ‘Guns aren’t dangerous, people are dangerous’, but I don’t buy into that particular philosophy. Loaded guns are dangerous. Electricity is dangerous. Sharp knives, broken glass and mad bulls are dangerous. You wouldn’t put a child in a small space with any of those things without taking steps to keep the one away from the other, not if you’re sane.
To say that ‘Guns don’t kill people, People kill people’ is like saying ‘Rabid dogs don’t kill people, it’s the rabies virus that kills people’. It’s technically true, but the semantics don’t matter when you’re dead because you hugged that dog and it bit you.
All guns can do, at best, is to maintain the status quo. Criminals get guns, so the householder gets a gun, and the criminal gets a bigger gun. So what does the householder do next? Well, apparently, you can pick up a semi-automatic assault weapon in Walmart, along with your cornflakes.
Sometimes it’s the criminal who gets his just desserts, but just as often it’s the householder who gets shot first, or shot by accident by a member of his own family, or a child is shot by accident, or – of all the horrors – someone goes nuts and gets into a school and mows down students by the score. The police are by now so nervous of gun-toting baddies that they have been known to shoot innocent people by mistake, or wrestle them to the ground so violently that they die anyway.
Reading the news, it seems to me, sitting here in my relatively safe, relatively gun-free country, that more innocent people die than do those who are breaking the law in good earnest. So another thing I simply do not understand is why people are still listening to the pro gun lobby.
Tell me. Why do people still think that guns will keep them and their loved ones safe?
Image by Morguefile
1 And also the minds of those living in the Isle of Man, the Channel Isles and anywhere else that is not the mainland of England itself, or Ireland, Wales or Scotland, but is still part of the UK. I just thought I’d mention that.