At one point in my life I considered buying a handgun.
I was sitting with a Filipino Army colonel on the Pacific island of Boracay. We had become friends, and he told me that a week in advance some «pirates» had caught up with a large sailing boat on the open seas and boarded it. Armed to the teeth – one of the criminals was seen clutching a hand grenade – they emptied the boat of all its valuables. The passengers survived, at least, but on that point he didn’t go into the details. My initial thought was whether I ought to have a gun on-board my boat rather than being left defenceless in a similar situation. But would I have fired at the approaching pirates to protect those whom I love?
Defenceless American pupils and students are again and again victims of school shootings. On February 28, 17 people were killed in Florida. At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland), 19-year-old Nicolas Cruz wrought havoc with a semi-automatic assault rifle (an AR-15). In response, president Trump suggested that school teachers should carry arms, and that those who comply should get a bonus for doing so.
On 24 March about half a million young people took part in the «March For Our Lives» protest march on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. demanding stricter gun laws. Some 800 similar protests were held around the country. Like the spread of the #MeToo movement, the rise of the phenomenon is accompanied by a hashtag: #NeverAgain. American teenagers of today are savvy social media users. They are committed, young and open-minded, their outlook untainted by the cynicism that comes with adulthood. This is the generation that grew up in the aftermath of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre; a generation that has grown accustomed to conducting lockdown drills in anticipation of future massacres rather than regarding them as rare, freakish events. From the last few years I can list mass shootings at Marshall County High School, Aztek High School, Virgina Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Umpqua Community College, Red Lake, Oikos University, Isla Vista, Northern Illinois University and Santa Monica.
Watch the speech by Emma Gonzales, who rose to prominence for having confronted Trump and the NRA:
As of yet, the US Constitution’s Second Amendment («the right to keep and bear arms») remains pretty far removed from the reality in Norway, even as our own government is calling for arming the police or for military solutions to conflicts. The parliamentary majority has so far prevented the arming of all policemen.
In the USA the influential National Rifle Association (NRA) remains the largest advocate for widespread gun ownership. You may think that the Wild West was a thing of the past, but that, it seems, is not the case. In Bowling for Columbine (2002), Michael Moore unmasks the NRA and the causes behind the eponymous school shooting, but the NRA is still fighting tooth and nail against new demands for tighter gun laws. In the US some 35,000 people are killed by guns annually. According to the 2015 figures, 13,000 of them were killed by other people, while the remainder died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
Popular resistance against guns is assuming more organized forms. To cite a few examples, 2,500 people rang up Florida’s authorities after the February massacre, and 1,700 emails were sent protesting Trump’s suggestion that teachers should carry arms in schools. According to The New York Times, the grassroots organization Moms Demand Action now has 100,000 volunteers around the US and a mailing list counting 4 million people. After the Florida massacre they could add another 75,000. Florida just increased the legal age for buying rifles to 21, prompting the NRA to launch a lawsuit to block it claiming it violates constitutional guarantees of equal treatment. Rather than dealing with the enormous number of lethal weapons in circulation, they are trying to turn it into a mental health issue.
President Trump is erratic in his views on gun control. Like many in the US, he has long held a permit to carry a concealed gun. He has previously stated that «he loves» the NRA. But he now appears to have been moved by the Parkland shooting survivors, recently calling for stricter background checks of gun buyers. He additionally