6 Hours at Gunpoint- The Disturbing Facts of Gun Control in America

On Monday 29th November at a small high school in Wisconsin, America, a student entered a classroom armed with two handguns during an afternoon lesson and help up the 24 classmates and a veteran teacher at gunpoint. Shockingly, this student was 15 years-old. He held the class hostage for five hours during a police stand-off before releasing a number of the students and then turning the gun on himself. The student, named as Samuel Hengel, was rushed to hospital but died on Tuesday 30th November from the result of the self-inflected gunshot wound.

It’s hard to believe that yet another high school shooting has happened in America. Thankfully, no-one was injured in this incident but over the recent years, the news has been filled with incidents that have not been so fortunate. Most remember the Virginia Tech Massacre in April, 2007 where a student, 23-year old Seung-Hui Cho, went on a rampage around the university campus, shooting 32 people and turning the gun on himself. This incident echoes the Columbine Massacre in April, 1999, where 12 students and teacher were killed before the gunmen, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, both senior students, turned the guns on themselves. As chilling as these incidents are, they are just two examples, (easily the most publicised incidents) and there are more incidents as shocking as these.

After the Columbine Massacre, there was a wide investigation into teenage gun control and a focus on bullying in schools. Klebold and Harris had both been bullied by students for being different but no-one could have predicted the eventual outcome. Even more shockingly, these boys were able to obtain guns from stores and gun shows with the use of an elder friend, who bought the four guns used in the massacre for the gunmen just months before the rampage. It says in the American constitution that all men have the right to bare arms, but this sicking right, has almost destroyed an entire culture. Even after the incident, parents and protesters pleaded to the Government to investigate the gun law and try to make sure something like this never happened again, but now it seems that their work and heartache has gone to waste.

While investigating this post, I went on a few American gun websites, as recommended by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and found that some lethal handguns and even rifles were being sold for less than $150 (around £96). This isn’t even counting popular gun shows in America which offer discounts to frequent customers. In Michael Moore’s film ‘Bowling for Columbine‘, guns were even being given away when an adult opened a new bank account, the promotion labelled “More Bang for your Buck”.

This sickening availability of guns makes incidents like this happen. Even when licensed firearm dealers have an age limit and a background check, many children are able to obtain guns from their own parents. In 2000, a 6 year old girl was shot and killed by a classmate in a school in Michigan, US, after, it is believe, the boy took the .32 calibre from his father’s gun collection. This disturbing incident internationally shocked parents and teachers and calls for more security actions were announced. This call for security at schools and colleges will perhaps manage to deter students from bringing guns to lessons but will do nothing if the availability of guns is still high.

One must consider why there seem to be more incidents of school shootings in America while there are only a handful of school shootings in the UK. Even though our gun crime is at a high, isolated incidents seem to be the most common. The worst recorded school shooting in the UK was the Dunblane Massacre in March, 1996, where sixteen children and one adult were killed by 44 year-old Thomas Watt Hamilton, a former Scout leader. This incident devastated Dunblane and a call for a ban on guns was made by parents and teachers.

After reviewing this case, it seems that there are many cultural differences between shootings at schools in America and the UK. In the Dunblane massacre the gunman was a man in his forties, whereas in the US students are becoming more popular in shootings. It could be because of the differences in attitudes towards students, where in England, when a student joins a college or sixth form, the focus is more on their career and what they want to do whereas in the US, there could be more of a focus on high performance and collectivism. In many school shooting incidents, bullying is a contributing factor as well as a focus on depression and mental instability and if this is true, then the US Government should be focusing on this horrible school tradition, one in which you find in every school.

There are many reasons why students or strangers bring guns to schools but the disturbing availability of guns in the US makes it easy for them to do so. If something is not done, these murders will just become numbing statistics. Even though the NRA defends these incidents, saying that their members only use guns for hunting and leisure purposes, it is becoming unbearable to think of the number of deaths caused by guns. These incidents seems to becoming more and more frequent and it is up to the Government to put a stop to this by denying this constitutional right. Times have changed and along with contributing factors such as desensitization and levels of violence in the media, it is unrealistic to views these incidents as isolated. Unless something is done, these figures will keep climbing with more innocent students losing their lives just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It is simply sickening and this Government under Obama needs to stop denying the truth that the gun control in America is simply out of control.

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