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The US Doesn't Just Need Gun Control - It Needs A Massive Change In Attitude

05/10/2017 17:16 BST | Updated 05/10/2017 17:16 BST
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Once again the world looks on in horror as more people are killed and injured in a mass shooting in the US.

Once again people cry desperately through their grief for gun control laws.

But once again their cries are met with the same arguments: stop 'politicising' the issue (what else do they suggest?) and the oft-repeated maxim: guns don't kill people, people do.

In Britain, we can't fathom why Americans struggle so much with the solution to this problem. After the horrendous shootings in Hungerford (1987) and Dunblane (1996) our gun laws became stricter to the point that gun ownership is comparatively rare. And thank goodness, since then, mass shootings are unheard of in this country.

But they're also relatively unheard of in Switzerland and Canada. Yet these countries have relatively liberal gun laws.

So what's the difference between the US and these countries? Why do mass shootings continue to happen there, while in the UK, but also Canada and Switzerland, they're relatively rare?

The answer is clear to anyone who tries to argue for gun control with an American conservative. When even the slightest tightening of gun controls is suggested, it's met with strong hostility. Why? Because their whole lives, Americans have had it ingrained that they have a constitutional right to bear arms, according to the second amendment. To be clear: that's a fundamental right to own weapons whose sole purpose is to kill.

The UK has no such right. For us it wasn't such a fundamental shift when gun controls were so strongly tightened.

Canada, while permitting gun ownership in law, also has no such constitutional right.

In Switzerland, there is a constitutional right, but it is qualified with a number of strict laws - numerous types of firearm are banned, it's mostly illegal to carry a gun in public without a permit, and a permit is only granted under certain circumstances.

So the UK, Canada and Switzerland all have different approaches to guns. So what is it they have in common? In contrast to the US, they don't ingrain a seemingly sacrosanct right to own and use a deadly weapon into the minds of people from their youth. They don't encourage mass admiration for and festishising of guns - the kind that led Stephen Paddock, who committed these atrocities in Las Vegas, to accumulate a sizeable personal collection of firearms.

Where gun ownership is legal, in Canada and Switzerland, there's a sense of proportion, with the sobering reminder that guns kill and must only ever be used under certain circumstances. People in these countries seem to understand that with the privilege of gun ownership comes responsibility.

But in the US, no one dare challenge a person's right to their precious guns. For the majority of the population, we might have grave questions about why they feel such a need to own guns - but at least they haven't committed mass shootings.

But whenever a depraved individual like Stephen Paddock uses their firearm to commit mass murder, the reality of gun ownership becomes clear. Without stricter controls, gun culture won't change. And without a radical change in attitudes to guns, some Americans will continue to use their right to own firearms to take the lives of innocent women, men and children.