Pixabay under cc licence

What if lecturing Americans about guns doesn’t work?

The pattern, by this stage, is depressingly familiar. A mass shooting in some backwater town in America, perpetrated by – usually – a teenage male who has decided that the world hates him. The immediate reaction in Europe is horror at American gun laws, and rage against the National Rifle Asssociation, and Republican politicians. American leaders tweeting “thoughts and prayers” are mocked, and receive angry tweets. “Christianity” gets blamed for some reason, by the people who tend to blame Christianity for everything.

It will all blow over in a few weeks. The next time the children of Uvalde, Texas are mentioned will be when they are joined in the grave by children in North Dakota, or West Virginia, or somewhere else.

On this one, it must be said, European liberals have a point. Americas gun laws are, by European standards, nuts. There are very few of us, here in Ireland, who consider our freedom meaningfully infringed by the inability to own our own AR-15, or to pick up a handgun in Tesco. Gun laws are certainly an explanation for America’s trend of school shootings, but they cannot reasonably be said to be the only explanation.

The focus on guns, after all, is by definition a focus on the “how”. “How” was the shooter able to do what he did? Because he had easy access to guns.

But that tends to imply that if, say, Ireland, had lax gun laws, we too would see school shootings on an industrial scale. Does that feel true to you? It does not, I must say, to me. So what about the “why?”

What happens to all the young men in the UK and Ireland, or France, or Germany, who dream of and desire the murder of their classmates? If the US problem is solely a problem about guns, then by definition, these young men exist in our society too, but we just don’t hear about them because they can’t get guns.

But wouldn’t you, logically, expect different kinds of attack? Where are all the attempted arsons, or the rammings of buildings with cars, or the petrol bombs? It’s a quirk of human nature that those with violent tendencies have always found a way. Consider, for example, the ISIS cells in France who could not access weapons, so used trucks to mow people down on the street instead.

It seems to me that focusing on guns alone – legitimate though much of that focus is – ignores the broader point which is that the US seems to be producing angry and alienated and murderous young men at a greater rate than other countries.

It also seems to me that at least some of this can be explained by the copycat phenomenon, and the media coverage. Relentlessly, these shooters manage to become objects of fascination – their names and their problems aired endlessly. We learned this week for example that the individual who perpetrated this latest outrage was “bullied” in school. No doubt, in the days before he did what he did, he’ll have enjoyed the idea of this becoming public, and his bullies feeling bad for what they wrought. The more we elevate their names and their silly reasons, the greater the perverse incentive to emulate them may be.

The Americans are not going to change their gun laws, at least in any meaningful way. The truth is that even if they wanted to, it would be almost impossible to disarm a country with as many guns as people, and trying it would risk more violence. One of the problems with the discourse in this area is that it focuses relentlessly on the unachievable, and to the exclusion of anything that might practically be done.

If it was me, I’d – and this is a restriction of free speech, mind you – ban any mention of the shooters name on television. I’d ban them from getting a funeral. I’d ban any mention of what drove them to it, or how they did it. I’d have them cremated, and tossed in a hole somewhere out of the way, just like what was done with the Nazis executed at Nuremburg.

When we make these people celebrities, we make shooting schools a path to celebrity. We could stop doing that a lot quicker than we could ever round up every rifle in Kansas. But of course, then we wouldn’t have the satisfaction of roaring about all the rifles in Kansas.

Share mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer mdi-chevron-left Prev Next mdi-chevron-right Related
Comments are open

The biggest problem Ireland faces right now is:

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...