May 2007 - Outdated gun laws belong in another era

01 June 2013

Whenever I feel angry or annoyed about events in the UK, I’m sometimes soothed by the thought that, well, there are worse places to live. Countries like Zimbabwe, for instance, where a racist and increasingly deranged Mugabe continues to bully his people. Like Iraq, where the appalling death toll grows by the day. Like Colombia where 80 trade unionists have been murdered by state forces over the last twelve months.

But I’m not just grateful that I don’t live in the poorer countries of the world. There is a lot wrong with the richest of all: the United States. I am writing this column on the day that 32 young people were shot dead in America by a fellow student.

I confess I don’t understand the American obsession with their Second Amendment, their ‘basic freedom’ to ‘bear arms’. The reasoning – back in 1789 when it was introduced – was that Americans needed ‘a well regulated militia’. Today there are another 32 victims of this out-dated folly.

The job of the state should be to ensure not that everyone should have the right to carry arms – but the reverse. It should be in the business of ensuring that no one needs a gun. Hillary Clinton says the Second Amendment isn't really relevant in 21st century America. How right she is.

One day last year I happened to read two reports on the same day about arguments between car drivers. In London one man had been arrested for punching the other driver. In New York a man was arrested for shooting his antagonist. Doesn’t that say something important?

My concern is that there is a process that what happens in America eventually happens here – and it will, if we are not constantly on our guard. The sad fact is that guns are attractive. Look at your television any night of the week and see how many programmes (often imported from over the Atlantic) feature a guncarrying hero. In fact, it is easier to count those that do not. A gun is a mark of manhood, and murder is an every-day event. It is – on television – normal.

Yes, we have our problems with safety both at work and on our streets. A few weeks ago one of our brothers from Carmarthen was the victim of a stupid and criminal act when bricks were thrown at his train.

Every day sees some form of violence in our communities: but at least we’re not ‘bearing arms’. We must never do so if we are to cling to our belief that we are a ‘civilised society’.

Back »

By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies. For more information please refer to ASLEF’s Privacy Policy