On May 14, 2000, over 750,000 of us gathered in front of the US Capitol for the Million Mom March, a diverse group brought together by the urgent need to demand tougher gun control laws.
Pointing towards the Capitol, Sarah Brady, founder of Handgun Control, Inc, declared, “If they don’t change the laws, we will change the lawmakers.” The applause was deafening. We were exuberant, sure that we could win.
We have failed.
Some Key Events:
* April 2007: Virginia Tech becomes the site of the deadliest shooting in US history, with 32 people killed.
* January 2012: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is shot and injured at a public appearance. Six others are killed.
* April 2012: Seven die at a small Korean college in California.
* July 2012: James Holmes walks into an Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre and systematically begins firing rounds into fleeing moviegoers, killing 12 and wounding 59.
As Thinkprogress explains:
Holmes brought five weapons to the theater: a Smith & Wesson AR-15, two Glock .40 pistols, a knife and a Remington model 870 pump shotgun he left in his car.
The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle, nearly identical in appearance to a military M16, that usually holds up to 30 rounds of high-powered ammunition.
But AP tweeted that Holmes had a high-capacity, drum-style ammo clip in the rifle that can carry much more ammunition than a box-shaped magazine.
In addition he seems to have purchased a full line of assault gear shown on the parking lot outside the theater. He was wearing a ballistic helmet, goggles, a gas mask, a ballistic vest, ballistic leggings, along with throat and groin protectors and black tactical gloves available at any law enforcement gear website.
Thanks to years of dedicated lobbying by the National Rifle Association, existing laws are woefully inadequate. Laws in the state of Colorado, similar to those across the US, allowed James Holmes to obtain his weapons with ease. The situation in my native UK is vastly different.
1. Registration: the state of Colorado prohibits gun registration. In the UK, with a very few specific exceptions, all fireams must be licensed.
2. Permits: Holmes reportedly drove up to the movie theater with his arsenal. That too was entirely legal in Colorado—as long as the guns are visible, you don’t need a permit. In the UK, the only kind of weapon you may carry is a rifle, and that is only if you belong to a recognized shooting club.
3. Assault Weapons: under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, assault weapons were banned in the US, but the act was not renewed in 2004, meaning that there are no federal restrictions on the ownership of AR-15s and similar weapons. All assault weapons are illegal in the UK.
4. Gun Purchase: Since 2003 it has been illegal for any local government or law enforcement agency in Colorado to “enact an ordinance, regulation or other law that prohibits the sale, purchase or possession of a firearm that a person may lawfully sell, purchase or possess under state or federal law.” In the UK, you need a valid license to buy a gun, and you are questioned continually during the purchase to confirm your intent, your background, and your criminal record.
5. Weapons Transportation: There are no laws pertaining to bringing firearms into Colorado from another state. In the UK, it is illegal to bring weapons into the country.
US Has Highest Gun Ownership In The World
The Guardian reports that the US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people. England and Wales, by comparison have an average of 6.2 per 100 people. As a result, 31,347 Americans were killed by guns in 2009, while the 2008 figure for the UK was 39.
The NRA is undoubtedly one of the most powerful lobbying organisations in the US, and it is not hesitant to divert campaign contributions to defeat advocates of gun control.. The organisation has raised $9m already for this November’s elections.
But as Gail Collins wrote last Saturday in the New York Times:
Everybody, including the gun control advocates, knows that nothing will change unless the people decide to do the leading. Eventually, the American voters come around. Just ask the suffragists.
I certainly hope so.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock