In the news again, a mass shooting in an American school. Nine (ten?) dead at time of writing and seven injured, although reports are conflicting. The police are not confirming the name of the gunman but his ‘not confirmed’ father has said he was “just as shocked as everybody”. The ‘not confirmed’ gunman is also said to have “warned of his intentions on social media”. The BBC reported this with the headline “Oregon college shooting: Nine dead in Roseburg attack”; CNN had “Oregon shooting: Gunman dead after college rampage”; NBC ran with “Oregon Shooting: Umpqua Community College Gunman Talked Religion” and USA Today with “Ten killed in shooting at Ore. community college”. Clearly, the BBC were behind the times with their numbers but the essence is the same.
I see five main aspects to this event, although I’m sure others will see many others.
- A young man in his twenties shot a lot of people in a school.
- Reports state that he had multiple weapons (numbers differing in each case) – we have yet to hear where they came from.
- Some reports state that he was asking who were the Christians and only shooting them.
- The sheriff is refusing to name the gunman, saying that he will not give him the recognition he obviously craved.
- Ten people lost their lives – that’s ten families left to grieve.
I put the last one in that position quite deliberately and will come to it in due course.
As I write this, there is no information about how this man came to have the weapons in the first place. It could have been from a number of sources; home, where they were either locked away or easy to access – he is, after all, an adult and there would be no reason to hide them from him, we suppose; a shop, and I am fuzzy about the laws regarding buying guns but I assume you have to fulfil some criteria in order to buy a firearm; from a home invasion; from a ‘private source’ There are probably others but the list would become tedious. In a number of articles I read, it was stated that there are 1500 more gun shops in the US than grocery stores. Over the whole of the country that is not really a significant figure, but it shows a trend. Put in its simplest (and frankly – I admit it – most ridiculous terms) people seem to be more interested in shooting something than eating.
It has yet to be confirmed that he was asking who were the Christians. Why would he do that? If his ‘not confirmed’ father is anything to go by, the gunman was not ‘not Christian’ – I hesitate to speculate on which faith he was following but that won’t stop others which will, possibly, lead to more bloodshed.
I am with the sheriff all the way when he refuses to name the gunman and with his reasons for doing so. However, his ‘not confirmed’ name is already being splashed across the world and no amount of good intentions by the local officer of the law will prevent it. Can’t wait for the raft of people being interviewed who tell the world’s press that they would never have thought of him doing such a thing/such a quiet young man/mowed my lawn every Saturday. On the other side of the room, of course, will be the ones who were certain that he ‘wasn’t right’ and someone should have seen this coming. His father will feel guilty and everyone will blame everyone else for what happened.
My own take on this situation is simple. He had multiple guns and was able to kill several people rather quickly. Someone remarked on social media (thankfully not an actual friend of mine) that even though England does not have the gun crime that the US suffers, it just means that people use other means to kill their fellow man. In a similar situation to the one in Oregon, it would be quite hard to kill nine or ten people from one position with a knife. They tend to try to get out of range quite quickly and usually succeed. The same would be true of a large piece of wood, lead piping or any other weapon designed to inflict blunt force trauma. Knives are regulated in the UK – you have to be a certain age to buy one – but, of course it wouldn’t make a difference if someone was intent on using them as weapons. The mere fact that they are close quarter or one use (if throwing) weapons, makes one of them less likely to cause multiple deaths.
Now for Point 5. If I was a parent – or even a teacher or co-pupil – of one of the students shot, I would be furious. I wouldn’t care if the guns were legally obtained or licensed, or if they had been stolen from a legal owner. All I would know would be that my child was now dead. It would give me no comfort to know that the gunman was also dead because I would know that there was always someone in the wings waiting to do the same somewhere else, to someone else’s son or daughter. How, in a country of over 300 million people, can anyone think that allowing anyone – with documented exceptions – to own a firearm will not lead to some problems. The larger the population, the greater the likelihood that someone will abuse the law.
From what I can see, regulating gun ownership means just that. It does not mean taking guns away from people who have them for quite legitimate reasons; it does not mean the State deciding who has a firearm based on criteria that they keep in a cupboard under lock and key; it does not mean telling Joe (or Josephine) America how to defend themselves. It means – to me – making it harder for people like the Oregon shooter and many like him to have access to weapons that can kill lots of people in one event. Not impossible, as we all know that to be a non-starter, but harder and surely the parents of those who died this week, and in the other mass shootings this year and previously, would be the first to stand for greater control. I know I would. I would not see it as taking away the rights of one section of society but, rather, helping to preserve the rights of another, who are no longer in a position to defend themselves.