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So Guns Don't Kill People, Do They?

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I wasn't in Newtown, Connecticut last night, but I was in Dunblane, and as soon as BBC Scotland correspondent Colin Blane heard of the attack which killed 27, including 20 scholchildren, he said:

"When I heard about the shootings in the elementary school in Connecticut, I thought immediately of Dunblane." (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20736167).

I was also in Denver a few weeks after the slaughter in Aurora, which left 12 people dead, was writing an article then and rather lost patience with the whole US gun control impasse while I was doing so:

"This seems to be Denver, a slight whiff of frontier territory but a city without major problems (or so a seller of Street Voice tells me) and an open, friendly air on its wide streets.

But this is the same city where only a month ago 12 people were killed and 59 injured in a random attack during the premiere of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.

The issue of gun control has been rumbling on in America for generations, and I do not want to revisit the same old hackneyed and polarised arguments (guns don't kill people, people do! - yeah, but they use guns to do so...) and endless dispute over the wording of the Second Amendment.

So here's a straightforward little thought. I come from an army family, and know a little about guns. Basically, a gun makes it very easy to kill someone. Far too easy. It's just a twitch of thumb and forefinger which sends a projectile tearing through someone's body at 2,000 miles an hour. The entry wound is usually small, but you could fit a big man's fist in the exit wound. It isn't like it's shown in the movies (except The Wild Bunch and Saving Private Ryan). The victim is thrown back maybe half-a-dozen feet and nearly broken in half. And it's not a trickle of blood that comes out, it's more like a fire hydrant erupting.

Put such weapons within easy reach of those who are disturbed, immature, irresponsible or violent, or those who do not consider the consequences of their actions, and you have a situation where catastrophic violence can erupt in seconds, with the consequences which were plainly seen in Aurora.

America has too many guns within too easy reach of too many individuals with the potential to be hot-headed or irresponsible. It's easy to sniff at comic-book quotes, but Spiderman's ethos, that "with great power comes great responsibility," could not be more serious or true.

If you don't know what you're doing with a gun, don't pick one up.

I lazily took a cab back from pleasant, easygoing downtown Denver and talked about good times and bad with the driver.

All he seemed able to say was that everything had been peaceful, then the violence suddenly erupted, as if from nowhere.

Now there's a surge of gun licence applications in Denver, with lots of people looking to protect themselves, so it probably won't be too long until there's another massacre, there or elsewhere.

I'd like to think this article might make a difference.

But I doubt it."

(James Christie, Things To Do in Denver When You're Not Dead, 22nd August 2012)

And as a sad but firm postscipt to my own words of four months ago, now there has been another massacre.