Another gun massacre in the UK. Hungerford, Dunblane, now Cumbria. The gun lobbyists will argue that’s not a bad figure, and figures certainly back up claims that gun crime in the UK is rare. But this is entirely missing the point. There shouldn’t be any. Michael Ryan, who killed 16 people in Hungerford in 1987, Thomas Hamilton, who killed 16 children and a teacher in Dunblane in 1996 and now Derrick Bird, who on Wednesday this week killed at least 12 people in Cumbria, all held legally-issued gun licences. Year in, year out, there’s some part of the world suffering this sort of tragedy because of people who were considered by authorities to be responsible or stable enough to hold a gun licence.
The sheer viciousness of gun crime is something the public are almost becoming immune to. We’re used to those film scenes where passers-by are gunned down without any on-screen consequence: very little blood, no grieving partners or relatives, perhaps just a hope that the villain will get their comeuppance at the end. Make no mistake, a close range blast with a shotgun will blow a gigantic, gory hole in you. If you are any distance away you will, at the very least, be peppered with shot, a painful and horrifying experience. Wednesday’s innocent passers-by were real people, real people with families who are now cruelly bereaved and needing answers to that age-old question – what kind of “civilisation” are we that we need guns and ammunition made freely available to anyone who can obtain a licence to hold them? A licence? Well, there’s a prevention measure for a massacre if ever we saw one.
Whatever we say, however simplistic an argument it seems, guns are glamourised and feted at every level of our culture. We like our films with running gun battles, and our arcade and console games to feature endless slaughter. It’s all fun. Somebody even “joked” to me this morning that firing a gun gives you a feeling of power. Well, they got that right. Want to let loose your passive aggression in a final act of brutality? Did anyone see what went on in Cumbria and still think that guns are a legitimate sporting activity? Did any of Derrick Bird’s victims have a sporting chance?
A work colleague of mine looked out of her window the other day to see a neighbour’s child pointing an air rifle at her daughter and a friend. After bellowing at the 14-year-old lad in question, she went straight around to the neighbour’s house to bellow the parents out of it too. The mother’s response? That they had given their 14-year-old child a weapon because he was “responsible”. Never mind the straightforward idiocy displayed here, it’s a small reminder that, in the grand scheme of things, any one of us can be as irresponsible as a 14-year-old when we have a weapon in our hands. Disarm everyone now, no more excuses. There must never be a Hungerford, Dunblane or Cumbria ever again.