Here’s a statistic to boggle your mind: on the day of the Boston Marathon Bombing – in which three people were killed and over two-hundred injured – eleven US citizens were murdered by firearms.
Such a figure is pertinent not in order to diminish the atrocious and devastating crimes of the Tsarnaev brothers on April 15th, but merely to show the paradox at the heart of US society. That even on a day of a deadly terrorist attack more people suffered death at the hands of guns.
(This, in fact, is less than an average day: in 2011, 8,583 people were killed by firearms; roughly 23.5 persons a day)
It calls into serious question America’s continuing inertia over gun control; in the same week of the bombing, the Senate refused to pass an insipid form of such legislation, which required those from buying guns to have simple background checks. Apparently even that was a step too far in violating the civil liberties for 44 senators.
Such decisions seem to fly in the face of basic logic. Indeed, in the wake of last year’s Sandy Hook school shooting in Newton – hardly the first of such massacres – nearly 4000 people have met an untimely fate through firearms. Despite the human story of twenty children being murdered, along with six of their teachers, the slaughter of innocent people continues unabated everyday, failing to motivate the politicians of Washington into action.
Many have argued such events would occur regardless of any control; that those willing to use guns in such tragedies would be more than willing to evade legal controls to obtain such weapons (as was the case of the Tsarnaev brothers)
Such arguments fail to stack up, however. The US homicide rate, due to firearms, is nearly thirty times the number of such occurrences in the UK. Yet, it cannot be attributed to video games, films or health problems; these, after all, remain the same worldwide.
It is also far too easy to lay the blame purely at the number of guns in circulation in the US, however. Indeed, Finland and Switzerland both have a high gun per capita ratio of over 45 firearms in every 100 people – due to national service – yet remain two of the safest nations of the world.
Instead, it is the triumph of a particular culture; a culture where guns can be bought like sweets, where terrorism is considered a crime of national importance but thousands of gun shot dead are perversely accepted as just how life is; a society which rules are both alien and ludicrous to most of the rest of the Western world: and where the tragedies of Virginia Tech, Columbine and Sandy Hook have failed to spark a national movement to curb the proliferation of guns.
It may be a painful thing to admit, but little can be done to stop an act of barbarity such as Boston. Much can be done to protect the thousands of American who die on a recurring daily basis due to guns, however The bad news though is that nothing will be done unless the citizens of the USA really begin to make a stand.
This article is an edited version of one that featured in issue seven of the Wessex Scene Magazine. The title has also been corrected from the print edition.