Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Thursday 3 December 2015

San Bernardino Mass Shooting

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.


  1. Fear is definitely a driver. Several US residents I know who otherwise address things logically can't grasp why I don't want a gun to defend myself.

    The baseline fear in their country is high enough that the idea I'm not afraid someone with a gun will burst into my house or mug me won't stick.

    So, logically gun control works, but it's like telling school children they should tell an adult rather than retaliate when bullied; statistically it is a better policy, but it doesn't solve the immediate distress, so it doesn't get followed.

  2. The thing is, guns are a part of the identity of America. The US doesn't have the long Imperial identity that the UK has. We don't have thousands of years of identity and culture to hold dear. We have REVOLUTION, GUNS, MILITIA, COWBOYS, CIVIL WAR, RELIGION and ultimately thumbing our noses at what everyone else does.

    This isn't condoning anything. It's just stating The US is hungry for culture and tradition because we're for the most part all without it. We're not a part of the long traditions of England, France, Ireland and the rest of the old world. We're the new world and we cling to ties to the old world and its cultures like a wool blanket on a cold night. We're 12% Irish, 15% German and the rest is all mutt, mingled with everything else but GODDAMIT, I'M IRISH!

    The thing is we do a lot of silly things in the name of tradition.

    Now add fear. A lot of it. We've attained the American Dream (tm) and squandered it. We've become the New Empire of cowboy justice. World police. Our media is owned by six corporations and we're fed bullshit to keep us moving in whatever direction they want. Our conservative party is wrapping themselves in the American flag, holding a bible and a gun and full of hatred towards anyone who doesn't fit the AMERICAN IDEAL. Our liberals generally fight among themselves and can't get their shit together and compromise on everything (which is the right thing to do, but the opposition doesn't, so they are outgunned).

    We're killing ourselves by the truckload, but hey, "Prayers for Sandy hook Victims" and move on to the next tragedy. News at 11. Between the conservatives perverting the second amendment of The Holy Constitution into a GOD GIVEN RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS, YEE HAW! the media flooding us with blood, fear and hate so people are inured to the sickness in the veins of our country, conservatism conflating being an American with being a cowboy and our dire pathological need for a culture to hold on to...nothing changes. We kill ourselves. We won't learn. The anti-intellectual conservative, hidebound right wing is ensuring we stay in the 19th century, with 21st century armament, with Mccarthy-level paranoia.

    1. Yes, OK, but Australia wasn't settled until after the USA declared independence, so it's an even younger nation. As well as their indigenous population, they also have significant ethnic minorities, including Italian, German, Chinese, Indian, Greek and Dutch. They have dreams, ideals and politics too. They don't seem to find any of these things a barrier to gun control.

    2. Australia is still a part of the commonwealth and while they were partly made up of the convicts from britain, (like the US had the religious nutters) they have always been very akin to their parent country. They didn't fight a war of independence with the parent state like the US did.

      Australia isn't as bent on independence, rebellion and the constitution as the US is. Hell, most countries have a constitution, but in the US it's such a big deal that we believe we have the first and only real constitution that all others are derived from.

      There is a massive difference in mindset in the US and Australia, the UK and elsewhere.

      Again, this isn't an excuse or something to make it ok. Quite the contrary. I think it's almost an illness. An arrogance of nationalism.

      That said, unless you have been raised in the US and understand how things like God, Freedom, Guns, and The Constitution are ingrained into people from birth you won't understand it. Not anymore than anyone from here will understand many of the quirks of the UK, France, or anywhere else.

      The problem is that our quirks are killing us.

  3. When I was in the army I deployed three times to the Balkans. Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo. Seemingly normal, average people slaughtered their next door neighbors. By this I mean being good christian folks one day and raping the women, killing the men then murdering the women and children, burying them all in a ditch with the rest of the ethnically muslim serbs, then taking their homes, property. And it was perfectly ok. We're not even talking about practicing muslims versus practicing christians, ethnic differences only most-times. They just have ancestry from the other side of some border...they they were less than human and ok to rape/ murder.

    To this day it is an alien concept. Something I'll never understand.

    We would give MREs to kids and bottled water, only to see adults beat the ever-living dogshit out of them and take it. So we stopped doing it,we thought we were helping...but we weren't.

    Cultural differences. We can sometimes get an idea of what they are, but we'll never really understand until we've been properly raised and indoctrinated with it from birth.

  4. Much applause Smiley!