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Guns are not just an American problem, we cannot afford to be complacent either

Here's my latest Scotsman column, published 20th June 2022.

I love The United States. I worked there, have good friends there, I even have American relatives. I find I have much in common with many Americans and have visited most parts of that wonderful country. But there’s one thing I don’t get, their almost nihilistic relationship with guns, particularly military grade assault weapons.

The irony is that most Americans I know don’t want these weapons on their streets either. No wonder, time after time, they have had to endure mass shootings with primary schools becoming a key target since Sandy Hook ten years ago. The latest slaughter of innocents in Texas is merely the latest in a long line. So what’s going on? How can such a sophisticated country tolerate such self harm when the solution is so obvious?

There is no need or justification for anyone other than the military to possess a semi-automatic assault rifle. They are not used for target shooting and no animal walks the face of the earth that requires that kind of firepower. Let’s be clear, assault rifles are designed only for killing people – the clue is in the name. So why not ban them for public possession, like most other parts of the world?

It’s the second amendment to The Constitution of the United States, we are told. Some charlatans even invoke the Almighty. It is apparently a god given right to own such weapons. What nonsense. The second amendment, which enshrines the right to bear arms was written in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. You can understand the thinking. A frontier country with little or no law enforcement, it made sense to allow people to protect themselves. Much has changed since 1791.

There is now a good system of law enforcement and guns have changed out of all recognition. I suspect The Founding Fathers would turn in their graves if they thought their common sense public protection amendment would be so corrupted as to allow an 18 year-old with mental health issues to buy a high velocity assault rifle across the counter. It’s so outside the spirit of the Constitution as to be obscene.

But we cannot afford to be complacent either. It has been just over 26 years since the horrors of the Dunblane shootings. This brought about a complete ban on handguns in this country but, despite this, pistols and revolvers are once again appearing in the hands of criminals.

The fact that nearly a third of guns used in crime in Scotland are now handguns is a real cause for concern. Given such weapons are illegal in this country, they must have been smuggled in, manufactured or adapted from replicas here.

Armed robberies are also on the increase. We have been here before. Exactly 40 years ago we were at the height of an epidemic of armed crime. Like the present spate much of the action was centred in the West of Scotland, with the main gang based in Barlanark.

Shotguns were the weapon of choice then and banks, building societies and particularly post offices were the targets. It took a long and dangerous time to get on top of the problem then, with some exemplary prison sentences handed down. Here we go again.

My Scotsman article can also be found here.

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