We here in Europe don’t understand it very well, but after every big massacre, Americans argue over the same banal question: Whether people kill — or their guns.
If you lean toward variant A, then you find yourself in the camp of gun ownership advocates. Their creed is that some people are evil. Good people in society must try to identify them in time and stop them. In short, practically every person acting with good will should carry a weapon — which in and of itself is beyond good and evil, and therefore, there is no sense in seeking salvation by limiting sales — in order to be able to return fire immediately if need be. We may consider it a distorted view of the world, but the fact is that there are 350 million firearms for 320 million American residents. In reality, only about 55 million Americans own them, yet millions of others support the constitutionally embedded right to own them. And be careful —those aren’t only right-wing Republicans, as one might readily think, but Democrats as well.
Which explains why the party of the left did nothing to restrict access to weapons even after the massacre of first-graders in Connecticut in 2012 when it had a majority in both houses of Congress and its own man in the White House. The trend turned out to be quite the opposite. After the Connecticut massacre, five states — Alabama, Kansas, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas — passed laws enabling teachers to carry weapons in the classroom.
If you’re of opinion B, i.e., that weapons kill, then you would be among those in the U.S. calling for restricting the right to bear arms. That view is, shall we say, closer to us. It’s based on the idea that a weapon is in and of itself an instrument of evil. If guns were less accessible, not like in the U.S. where they’re as easy to buy as bread rolls at the counter, there would be fewer tragedies. Finally, isn’t there less butchery of the kind that took place in Las Vegas on our continent precisely because the sale of weapons is much more strictly regulated?
But the Las Vegas shooter acquired all his rifles — and he had plenty — legally. He bought them in Las Vegas this year in a gun store belonging to arms manufacturer New Frontier Armory. The head of this firm told the media that Stephen Paddock fulfilled all the requirements to make the purchase, including the mandatory FBI background check. This is a fatal counterargument to the European prescription. In order for an arms sale ban to have prevented Paddock’s massacre, such sales would have to have been outlawed well beyond the legal requirement. Only in this way could a person as clean as he was, from a criminal-record and clinical-medical standpoint, have been prevented from getting guns.
Gun ownership is not prohibited that strictly anywhere, not even in Europe. Our view of the matter and our experience can hardly serve Americans today.