Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life

Article excerpt

At the time of writing, a few days after the school massacre in Connecticut, the National Rifle Association remains creepily silent. This normally loud-mouthed, blustering organisation has made no comment on the killings and has even taken down the Facebook page on which it was boasting at the time of having 1.7 million 'likes', meaning people who approve of the NRA. Never has it been so self-effacing in response to a gun rampage of this kind.

It normally goes straight on the offensive, reiterating for the umpteenth time that guns don't kill people, people do, and that the right to bear arms is the inalienable constitutional right of every American. Maybe by now, with Christmas behind us, it will have recovered its nerve and resumed its pro-gun propaganda, but for a while at least I have been able to take some solace in its discomfiture.

Compare this to the reaction 12 years ago of a NRA spokesman to the shooting in a Michigan primary school of one six-year-old by another child of the same age, the youngest gun murderer on record. 'I suspect this tragedy may say more about parental responsibility than any little old gun law, ' the spokesman said. The 'little old gun law' to which he was referring, and which was then languishing in Congress, contained nothing more than a watered-down safety-lock provision that might have made it just a bit more difficult for tiny tots to pull triggers on each other, but the NRA saw even this as a threat to a constitutional right. At that time, when a study had shown that 100,000 American schoolchildren carried a gun to school every day, its position seemed barely credible.

Despite the level of accidental gun deaths among children, described in 2000 by President Clinton as 'nine times higher than in the other 25 biggest countries combined', and, of course, despite the tragically frequent gun massacres carried out by the mentally diseased, more or less nothing has been achieved in the field of gun control. Even a ban on the carrying of concealed weapons was lifted by an appeals court in Illinois three days before the Newtown massacre. And each tragedy seems merely to fuel the demand for guns by frightened people seeking a means of selfdefence. It is now estimated that there are about 300 million guns in America, where the population, at between 311 and 312 million, is only slightly more than that; and it seems likely that the number will continue to rise. …

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