There has been another mass shooting in America. You will all have heard, by now about the attack in San Bernardino, California where fourteen people were killed, and about the same again were injured. You might not know that it was the second mass shooting in the USA that day.
You might not know that in the 336 days that have passed so far this year there have been 355 mass shootings in the USA, where a shooting qualifies if there are four victims or more.
Since January 1st 2015, there have been 460 deaths and around 1300 injuries as a result of those shootings.
Of those 355 shootings, forty-five occurred in schools. There has been an average of one mass shooting in a school every week of this past year in America.
|UK Business Insider reports San Bernardino shooting|
President Obama spoke after the San Bernardino shooting:
The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world.
We should come together on a bipartisan basis at every level to make these rare as opposed to normal
I think he’s right, but the American people have failed to act in the past. We all remember the horror of Columbine, and that was way back in 1999. The first mass school shooting in the USA was in 1966 in Austin Texas where seventeen people were shot dead and thirty-one injured at the university.
Of course, America is not the only place in the World that knows this phenomenon. There have been three mass shootings in the UK since 1987, about one per decade.
In 1987, sixteen people were killed and fifteen injured in Hungerford. In 2010, twelve people were shot and killed and eleven were injured in Cumbria. And in 1996, the UK suffered its only school shooting, in Dunblane, where eighteen people died and fifteen were injured.
Dunblane came as a terrible, horrible shock, for the country, but also for me, personally. I was at the university that was local to Dunblane, and I spent time there when friends of mine shared a student house in the village. I knew it pretty well. When the shooting occurred, the older dort was also in her first year of school. When the news aired, I sat stunned for a few minutes, and then I gathered myself together and went to stand outside the school gates until it was time to collect the dort. I have never been so relieved to see anyone in my entire life.
People reacted strongly to Dunblane; they reacted with the Snowdrop Petition. There was a groundswell of opinion, and politics hit the grassroots. We were united, and action followed. Parliament under John Major, leading a Conservative government, passed two firearms amendment acts in 1997, banning the ownership of handguns. The first act didn’t include .22 calibre single-shot handguns, but the second act rectified this omission.
Gun control began, in earnest, in the UK after World War I, when soldiers were bringing firearms home from the front, and we have never looked back. Gun control is not only desirable it is entirely possible. We proved it in 1997, in the UK, with the Snowdrop Petition, and the Australians proved it in 1996 after the Port Arthur Massacre. After the the Sydney Hostage Crisis in 2014, Australia amended its gun laws once more.
Thirty thousand people a year are killed by guns in the USA, of them, about ten thousand are homicides. About seventy-five thousand gunshot wounds are treated in American hospitals every year. There might be another blog entirely devoted to the lowered cost of healthcare in the USA in the event of those numbers dropping dramatically… but I digress.
In the past fifteen years, UK gun murders have not exceeded a hundred in any given year, and average around fifty-eight deaths per year.
Total casualties for the United States in the first Iraq War numbered 146. The UK lost forty-seven. The war ran for seven months. For every British hero killed in the first Iraq War, another Britain was murdered with a gun on his own soil. For the sake of comparison, while those 146 American heroes died for their country, more than 5,800 Americans murdered Americans with guns at home, and a further 11,700 died at the end of the barrel of a gun by accident or suicide or for other reasons not related to murder. For every American hero who died in that war forty were murdered at home with guns.
We are all afraid of something. We all take risks every day, and we measure those risks. Right now, the Americans, like much of the Western World, appear to be in fear of Islam, and, in particular of the terrorists they think they see everywhere.
Terrorists didn’t kill thirty thousand Americans on American soil last year; they did it to themselves and each other. Terrorists didn’t deliberately shoot and murder ten thousand Americans last year; Americans with guns in their hands did that. Terrorists didn’t even murder 460 Americans and injure 1300 more on American soil last year; American mass shooters did.
We are all afraid. We measure that fear, and we react. I wonder whether we should throw away the old yardsticks and find some new ones.
Addendum: As of Saturday 5th December, British newspapers are reporting that the San Bernardino mass shooting is being investigated as a terrorist attack in sympathy with ISIL.