THE BLOG
28/05/2014 09:03 BST | Updated 27/07/2014 06:59 BST

The USA Should Be Learning From Gun Control In The UK

As a non-US citizen watching yet another parent interviewed after yet another gun massacre in the USA, I can only nod in impotent agreement as the tormented father of one of the victims, Richard Martinez, screams anguished questions at his own government, asking what has been done to prevent these repeated tragedies.

The plain answer of course is : Nothing.

Amongst the equally vociferous, gun-toting culture that infests America, the outpouring of political fervour that erupted after the child killings in Sandy Hook in 2012 pretty soon congealed into the usual sclerotic steady state of inaction. Meanwhile the gun lobby remains just as eager as ever to bury such events along with their victims.

I've had a number of conversations with pro-gun, NRA supporters via social media, and the arguments for keeping the ludicrously loose gun ownership laws in many states usually hinges on self defence.

It's of course a circular argument that if guns are freely and legally available, they're going to be even more at the disposal of the more nefarious elements of society. Reducing the ability of private citizens to own guns is seen as giving the advantage to the bad guys who gun owners don't trust their own law enforcement agencies to protect them from.

Once you get into discussions with people who are convinced that they need to sleep with a pistol under their pillow in order to feel safe in their own homes, any reasoned arguments about what is normal and expected in a civilised society soon leave the room. To me the idea that you need to be armed at every waking, and sleeping, hour of your life is a facet of the same paranoia that drives spree killers.

But it's true in many respects that the number of weapons in circulation in the USA means that the gun culture is almost indelibly ingrained into their way of life. Even if rules were passed to outlaw gun ownership today, it would likely take decades before the stock of illegal weapons reduced to the kinds of levels we have here. But that's not an argument for doing nothing.

Elliot Rodger, the gunman in this case, was originally born in the UK where personally I feel gun ownership laws are too stringent. I'm that odd enigma of a pacifist gun enthusiast. I'd love to be able to shoot a pistol in a licensed and regulated gun club in this country, but that freedom is apparently now forever lost to me.

That said, I'd rather have our gun control laws than those in the US. The idea that any private individual would need to own and, more importantly - keep in their home, an array of semi-assault weapons along with the ammunition to use in them, is an idea so alien to me it defies description. The old adage that guns don't kill people, people do, only holds up as far as any other cliché. If you take guns out of the equation you still have a safer society.

Even so, the ability to do that here doesn't stop anyone with the right contacts and motivation from obtaining a weapon if they want one. If this is the case in our society, where most of us wouldn't even have seen a real handgun, let along fired one, how would the same restrictions in the US prevent future atrocities such as UCSB and Sandy Hook?

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the Dunblane massacre - that drove our country to so severely curtail gun ownership - was carried out by someone who legally owned the firearms he used.

In many ways Thomas Hamilton had a similar profile to that of Elliot Rodger. Both were made mentally unstable by brooding resentment and both felt disenfranchised by their own society. They believed they had nothing to lose and unleashed that pent-up emotion against the people they saw as having robbed them of their rightful dues.

It's probably the same inner dialogue that goes on inside the heads of dozens of damaged individuals that live unnoticed amongst us every day. The difference is that free ownership of firearms, capable of quickly and effortlessly killing numerous people, give such people the means to vent those frustrations violently when the pot boils over. The step between thought and action is much smaller when it only involves the squeeze of a trigger.

The same recriminations over Rodger's and Hamilton's gun ownership status are also evident now in the media. Why did no one see this coming? Why was such an obviously unbalanced person allowed to own lethal weapons? In the UK of course that incredulity is amplified by the fact that Rodger legally owned such a comprehensive arsenal.

Again the answer lies in the fact that legal ownership of weapons fosters an air of normality. The fact that Rodger had a cache of arms under his bed may not even have been seen as a problem by the police that interviewed him on his doorstep some weeks ago. That is if they'd bothered to search his home in the first place.

If nothing else the restrictions here have proved the paradigm. The legislature in the USA have to get past their political inertia and accept that the first step towards preventing further horrific incidents like these are nationwide restrictions on personal gun ownership.

The latency inherent in a society awash with guns and ammo will likely mean hundreds, if not thousands, of other families will still be pouring their greif into the television cameras for years after decisive action is finally taken. But until the concept of proper, stringent, gun control is embraced, this journey can't even begin. Someone has to take that first step, regardless of all the balance of power arguments.

Every day a politician prevaricates, every day an NRA member tells me he needs his personal arsenal to assuage his terror of home invasion, is another day lost between now and the next time the personal demons of legal gun owner tells him to take his guns to town.