It is inevitable that the world’s attention will focus on the Virginia Tech university campus after the latest gun massacre to hit the United States of America.

As more details of the shooting spree at the US college emerge, an increasing number of difficult questions arise.

The two-hour gap between the first shooting incident to the second, murderous attack, the apparent delay in alerting people on the campus about the threat and the who, what and why about whoever was responsible for the killings will all come under the spotlight.

But just as inevitably, both within the US but more particularly elsewhere around the world, will be the continuing questions about America’s gun laws.

In nations such as the UK, where there are far more strict laws on gun ownership and use, there will be a certain amount of incredulity about the apparent ease with which people can arm themselves so heavily. There seems a straight-forward link between such freedom to own and carry weapons and the massacres at Virginia Tech and back through so many other similar mass shootings, such as Columbine High School in 1999 and the University of Texas campus in Austin in 1966.

A large part of our disbelief goes a long way to explaining the cultural and historical differences between the US and the UK and many other countries around the world. We don’t understand the reluctance to toughen the gun laws in the US because we don’t have a deep enough understanding of how the laws were shaped in the first place and the way in which these laws and so many other fundamental rights have shaped American society and attitude over so many years.

The Virginia Tech shootings will inevitably reactivate a similar debate within the US itself. However, the chances are that the reforms so many of us believe will simply have to be implemented will not find a sufficient level of support to change the existing laws.

We can continue to shake our heads at the failure to react, decry the inability to tackle the issue of guns in the US and point the finger at the likes of the all-powerful National Rifle Association and the reluctance of US political leaders to go out on a limb and risk the ire of such lobby groups by restricting gun ownership.

But we won’t influence the decision-making in the US and nor should we.

Perhaps we should concentrate more on how such incidents can impact on us closer to home?

Although the UK is far from being a mirror image of US society, there are certain trends that are evident on both sides of the Atlantic. One of those trends can be seen in the gang culture that has emerged in UK towns and cities and the violence and crime linked to it.

It was not so long ago that the headlines in the UK were dominated by a spate of apparently gang-related shootings involving teenagers.

While such incidents and the myriad problems they throw up are still very much a daily issue faced by communities around the UK, collectively our attention and focus is trained on the US.

Why are we more concerned with solving gun crime in the US than our own more pressing problems?

There is an argument to suggest that it is because we know we can have our say on what is happening in the US without any realistic hope of making a difference, whereas we are not willing to make difficult decisions about what is happening within our own society.

We may feel incredulous at how a tragedy like the Virginia Tech massacre can continue to be allowed to happen in the US, but shouldn’t we start feeling the same sort of disbelief and desire to bring about change at what is happening to people in the UK?

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One response »

  1. Rita Jones says:

    In recent years a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been holding Hearings on ‘Combating Terrorism through Education’. None of that exercise or initatives by USAID, USIP and others concern improved safety for US students. It instead has to do with altering teaching content for children in madrasa schools spread from Indonesian islands to Indian hills to Tanzanian deserts. Should tackling real issues at home be deferred until manpower and resources could be spared from addressing imaginary threats.

    What serious steps were taken since Columbine in 1999 to Virginia Tech in 2007 to secure lives of students inside USA? A wise first step will be to put the priorities right.

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