A colleague of mine once came up with a genius idea for dealing with gun licence requests.
You simply ask the person if they want a gun. If the answer is no, they don’t get one. If the answer is yes, they still don’t get one, because no-one in their right mind wants a gun, and anyone who is isn’t in their right mind should not have a gun.
Simples, as the meerkat would say.
There can’t possibly be a sensible answer to the question: “Why does a taxi driver need six guns?” Except: “He doesn’t.” Michael Atherton in County Durham has now followed in the murderous footsteps of fellow taxi driver Derrick Bird, whose rampage through the Lake District killed 12 people in 2010 .
It continues a long and tragic history. The worst single episode for me was Thomas Hamilton’s 1996 massacre of schoolchildren in Dunblane – with legally held guns. Michael Ryan had also been given licences for six weapons, including the two semi-automatic rifles that he used to murder 16 people in Hungerford nine years earlier.
Even London barrister Mark Saunders would probably be alive if he hadn’t owned a gun which allowed him to start firing out of the window which allowed the police to justify shooting him.
All these gun owners no doubt believed themselves to be stable people who were safe and maybe even skilled users. The licensing authorities certainly did.
But the reason their licences should all have been denied goes back to the “unknown unknowns” that I blogged about at the New Year. These men didn’t know what they were capable of given circumstances that they didn’t know existed at the time. In other words they probably had no idea they were capable of turning the guns on their families, on complete strangers or on themselves, given circumstances which they had not imagined could happen.
None of us knows how we’d respond to infidelity, financial loss, parentage lies, utter despair, rage at the unfairness of life, mental breakdown, or sheer cruelty from a partner until after it has happened. The anger, rage, red mist moment comes, and if a gun is anywhere in the mix the scene has been set for tragedy.
Of course most gun owners do live out their lives without harming anyone or anything. And anyone wanting to kill their family after a domestic nightmare will find another way of doing so, usually with knives, as we’ve seen in some recent horrific instances. But the point with guns is that many more people can be targeted in a very short space of time if the unthinkable happens.
In the freedom-lovin’ arms-bearin’ US-of-A it’s an almost weekly occurrence for someone to take out all the people who’ve annoyed them, followed by themselves. The term “going postal” was invented in the US and has become one of its deadlier exports.
Gun rampages are – to my memory – an exclusively male affair. I don’t think men are more capable of rage than women, but I suspect far fewer women are drawn to guns in the first place, and if you don’t own one, you can’t turn it on others in a red mist moment.
If I took out all the people who’d ever annoyed me, the population of south-east England would be severely depleted. I should definitely never be given a gun.
If you really do want to be great at shooting at targets, gun clubs should have to store all the weapons used.
If you want to shoot wildlife, don’t. Please learn to love nature without feeling the need to kill it.
If you want to shoot burglars, don’t. Please spend the gun money on a better alarm system.
So apart from farmers and deerstalkers and soldiers, I struggle to understand why anyone needs a gun. But I can definitely understand why you might WANT one. They’re not the same, and should never be confused.
Do you want a gun? Yes. Can you have one? No. Simples.