Categorized | US, World

When You Have a Gun, Every Problem Looks Like a Nail

Image by tribbles1971

Image by tribbles1971

The shooting of journalist Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward live on breakfast television in Virginia was unimaginably horrific. Sadly, even the harrowing screams of Ms Parker in her last seconds are unlikely to change the U.S. debate about guns, but they should. These TV journalists were not operating in certain parts of Syria, Iraq, or Libya where they might ostensibly be at higher risk of getting shot. They were shot in a pleasant, quiet, leafy part of suburban America on a routine assignment.

Of course, the NRA and other Second Amendment ayatollahs will repeat their mantra that if either of the journalists or the middle aged lady being interviewed had owned a gun they could have reacted instantly and stopped or wounded the shooter. Except nobody can plan for that happening at 6:45 am in what should be a safe suburban location in Virginia and react instantly. The truth is that nobody can predict who is going to get shot first, which means that everyone has to have a gun – just in case. 

In America, the land of guns, fear can only be lessened by guns. Fear begets fear and guns beget guns. But that fear can never be eradicated because someone else will always have a more lethal or faster loading weapon. Why should Americans be forced to live in a society where they have to be prepared in every benign and peaceful situation to react in an instant when some disturbed individual decides that firing a gun is the only answer to their problems. That is no life at all. To live perpetually in fear with a gun by your side, poised and prepared to save a school full of kids or shoppers in a mall from the next mass shooter – that is the NRA’s solution to mass shootings.

When guns are available on demand, for every unhappy person who feels disgruntled about something, guns become the first response to a problem when they shouldn’t even be the first thought.

The old saying that when you have a hammer, every problem seems to look like a nail is especially apt in the context of a society awash with firearms. For someone that is deranged, disturbed, and who has had one bad day at the office too many, every problem seems potentially solvable when they have a gun in their holster. When guns are available on demand, for every unhappy person who feels disgruntled about something, guns become the first response to a problem when they shouldn’t even be the first thought. The tragic irony here is that the (mostly) Republican lawmakers who don’t trust President Obama or the P5+1 to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of the Iranians, will do nothing to prevent lethal weapons falling into the hands of unstable individuals or criminals through more rigorous background checks. Thus, an American firearm homicide rate that is seven times that of Canada and 300 times that of South Korea seems likely to continue. As the horror surrounding the shooting of Alison Parker and Adam Ward recedes in the rear-view mirror, there is the certainty that disturbed individuals will be as inspired by this killing as the shooter Vester Flanagan claimed to have been by the mass shootings at Colombine High Schoool in 1999 and Virginia Tech in 2007.  Members of Congress prepared to maintain the status quo on guns in order to keep the donations from the NRA flowing into their campaign coffers need to listen to Alison Parker’s screams, look her father in the eyes, and explain why they are so vehemently opposed to sane and sensible gun control measures being enacted.

Image courtesy of tribbles1971


About David Miles

David Miles is a former Carnegie Scholar and has a PhD in International Relations from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He teaches international relations and US foreign policy in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews. He has worked for leading businesses in the UK and Germany including Santander, Lloyds TSB and more recently SAP. Apart from writing for and editing Global Politics, his writing has appeared in the Daily Beast, Carnegie Ethics Online, Huff Post and the Scotsman. His interests include American political history, US foreign policy, modern German history, American and German constitutional history, the politics of the European Union, peace and conflict studies, and the politics of the Middle East. When not doing research or teaching, he enjoys good single malts and the charms of the Old Course. He lives in St Andrews, Scotland.

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