THERE is a quotation from American politics that pops up often over there and over here. Now that more people lie dead from a yet another mass shooting in the States, these familiar words should be put to new use.
The original phase can be dated to Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign in 1992 – “It’s the economy, stupid.” These words were coined by election strategist James Carville, although the original slogan was simply: “The economy, stupid.”
Now after another school shooting, this time at Umpqua community college in Oregon, these words should be repurposed. Here is a suggestion: “It’s the bullets, stupid.”
It’s almost as if the gun-loving contingent in the US cannot join the dots between the weapons they feel it is their constitutional right to carry and the deaths that occur because of that right.
This is reported to be the 45th school shooting this year. A gunman named as Chris Harper Mercer, 26, murdered as many as nine people and wounded seven more at the Oregon college, before he was killed by police.
The shooting took place in the rural town of Roseberg in a state where the open carrying of weapons is permitted.
Hours after the shooting, President Obama was faced with making his 15th statement on shootings since taking office. Seeming grey with weariness and anger, and clearly agitated, he said: “There’s been another shooting in America.”
The President then added: “As I said just a few months ago and I said a few months before that and each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It does nothing to prevent this carnage being inflicted some place in America, next week or a couple of months from now. Somehow this has become routine.”
Obama said the US was not the only country on earth that had people with mental illnesses or who wanted to do harm to others – adding: “We are the only advanced country on earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.”
He praised the UK and Australia for having come up with ways to prevent such mass shootings, adding that the US had made a political choice to allow the mass killings – “We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.”
Obama said much more that was wise and sensible, and his speech is worth looking up – Obama’s words are playing now as I type on my laptop.
Many Brits just don’t understand the pro-gun lobby in the US: I’d certainly count myself among that puzzled throng. Part of the difficulty lies in a skewed perception of risk. Gun-toting lovers of ‘freedom’ believe that their rights to carry a weapon outweigh all other considerations.
Yet if fewer people carried weapons, then the risks would fall: if everyone has a gun then there is more likelihood of them using it. If you make guns easy to obtain, then it logically follows that someone will eventually turn their weapon against innocent people.
One telling comparison in the reports of this latest shooting is that guns are said to kill more people in America every six hours than terrorist attacks did in the entire year of 2014. So instead of fearing the other and the unknown, Americans should fear those around them – which is far scarier.
Here is a clean and simple statement: if Chris Harper Mercer had not be able to arm himself so easily and readily, then he would not have been able to shoot innocent people at their college.
Clear and simple to this Brit at least. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Well it does to me, but you can bet any dollars you may have on the certainty that at this very moment, some gun-rights lobbyist is arguing that the answer to the problem lies in more guns. They always say that, after maintaining a ‘respectful’ silence for a few days after each new atrocity.
Obama addressed this in his speech, saying that the gun lobbyists were probably writing their press releases already: “We’ll need more guns, they’ll say. Does anyone really believe that?”
Well they shouldn’t. And to say it again, and Obama can have this one on me: “It’s the bullets, stupid.”