Many others have been voicing their opinions on gun control in light of the latest massacre in America, so as it’s an emotive subject, I feel driven to say my piece on the matter. Before I’ve even started, though, I can see visitors to this post in six months time, say, scratching their heads and wondering precisely which shooting massacre in America I’m referring to, as such events have long become routine in the USA and will certainly continue to be so, long after I’ve written and published this post.
It becomes increasingly hard to remember the details of these shootings, as they all seem to blend into one with the passing of time, with only Las Vegas, Orlando, Charleston and Sandy Hook, out of a decades-long roll call of mass murder, remaining at all clear in the memory, by virtue of their sheer awfulness and the savage new depths the gunmen responsible for each atrocity managed to plumb.
So, whenever this vile subject comes up, my mind goes back to August 2002, when I was working in a busy Finds department at Wessex Archaeology, in Wiltshire. The end of the summer was overshadowed by the murders in Soham of two schoolgirls each aged 10, named Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, at the hands of a local degenerate by the name of Ian Huntley, who was swiftly caught and charged.
Without trying to reconstruct the conversation in question, there came a day when a few of my friends and colleagues expressed some surprise or confusion on account of my reaction to the terrible events in Soham, which principally consisted of wishing that the guilty parties could be slowly hanged, drawn and quartered in public. My friends weren’t being remotely disingenuous in asking me why I was so angry, but because I was one of only two people working in the room that was a parent, it was simply a fact that with the best will in the world, the others couldn’t truly comprehend the raw emotions involved.
That was until the other parent in the room that day, a friend and colleague of mine named Angi, noticed that I was at a rare loss for words, so she simply announced that when you’re a parent, you would die to protect your kids. The vast majority of those who were present understand these matters perfectly now, as many of them have since gone on to become happy mums and dads themselves, but at the time when these harrowing discussions and exchanges were taking place, they were not in a position to fully grasp the depth of feeling involved when the subject of the murder of children comes up.
These emotions had arguably reached a peak about 8 years before, in March 1996, when a monster shot and killed 16 young children and one of their teachers in the town of Dunblane, in Scotland. My son was still a baby at the time and I felt physically sick when I saw the news reports of this appalling event, so it’s merely stating the obvious to say that I would have gladly given my life to save him from ever experiencing such a fate, while it’s equally safe to assume that I would have been just one of millions of parents here in Britain who thought along exactly the same lines.
Any notions of self-sacrifice were unnecessary, however, because without going into the minutiae of the legal proceedings that followed the massacre in Dunblane, all handguns apart from muzzle-loading and historic weapons were banned. We’ve had no school shootings since then, whereas America has had at least 18 school shootings so far this year, as I write this. I have friends in the police and in the armed forces, who by necessity deal with firearms as part of their duties, but I have never met a single person in my life here in Britain who yearns for public ownership of guns. I’ve met some farmers who own shotguns, while there’s a shooting lobby in this country who go in for killing wildlife as a recreation on the weekends, but no one I’ve ever met thinks that the standard and quality of life here in Great Britain would be improved one iota by mass gun ownership.
And so it is that I found myself watching the terrible videos on this BBC report with utter bemusement. I feel sorry for all the survivors and desperately sad for the father who lost his daughter, but what can I possibly say in response to this poor man’s agonised exclamation of “It should’ve been one school shooting and we should’ve fixed it”, other than “I could not agree more”?
Over recent years, I’ve read all the arguments put forward by the National Rifle Association, survivalists, supporters of the Second Amendment, responsible gun owners, patriots and the rest of the ‘guns and freedom’ obsessed crew. There is a gulf between their way of thinking and mine that will never, ever be bridged, while the strangest aspect of all is that so many of these people declare they will only give up their precious guns when they’re taken from their cold, dead hands, whereas I and many millions like me here in Britain would die – if necessary – to prevent guns being used against our precious children.