Comment: Gun control after Newtown

Lindsey Askin 18 January 2013

Lindsey Askin, a Connecticut resident, shares an American perspective

Newtown, Connecticut’s street-side memorial on Christmas Eve is still littered with countless soft toys, oversized Christmas cards and decorations made by schoolchildren. Last month while most of us celebrated Christmas, and news channels worried about whether or not we had all spent enough money to safeguard our economies, dozens of parents across Newtown were suddenly childless. At the same time, families with small children across the United States felt blessed to be woken up by their children on Christmas Day.

The gun belonging to Adam Lanza’s mother, who Lanza shot in her sleep before heading out to Sandy Hook that fatal day, separated parents from their children and ended the lives of six school teachers. The horror of the massacre was only compounded by the fact that it occurred in the run up to Christmas. The impact was also felt in neighbouring towns such as Danbury, whose hospital tried to save the victims. Sadly, save two adults, nobody survived.

Some facts: according to Agresti and Smith, 8 percent of all violent crimes in the United States, which have descended from 80 million in 1990 to 20 million in 2010, are performed with a firearm. Roughly two-thirds of all murders are carried out with a gun. The issue here is decidedly the amount of destruction that can be inflicted by one single gun on a group of people in a building, in a movie theatre, in an elementary school. But Adam Lanza did not undergo a background check. Anger and violence always finds a way.

Now is a good time for reflection on gun control. Having said that, it has become nearly impossible to reconcile conflicting viewpoints on the subject. Ultimately the defence of gun-ownership is ingrained into much American culture. Many Americans despise drug-use, nudity, video game violence, but still sanction private ownership of assault weapons. Some Americans have collections of literally hundreds of guns. There are 307 million Americans and 300 million firearms in the United States. Crime is down in America, but assault weapons still create massacres, trauma, and leave in their wake unparalleled destruction. US Vice President Joe Biden’s official recommendations to President Obama call for tighter background checks and a ban on automatic weapons. While Fox News gnashes away and condemns the recommendations as the product of a “liberal think tank,” the court trial for the Joker is about to commence. Till then, the residents of Newtown are far from recovered, and are not likely to any time soon. As for the debate on gun control, there remains plenty of miscommunication between the two sides. The unalterable fact is, however, we might not have lost so many innocent souls if total extermination machines such as Nancy Lanza’s Bushmaster XM-15 were outlawed. And as with so many American Great Debates and wars-on-stuff, the only way forward seems to be federal legislation, and not the peanut gallery of back-and-forth media talk.

Lindsey Askin