The tragic event where a 5-year-old boy fatally shot his 2-year-old sister with a rifle he had received as a gift is, to me, yet another reason why I don't think guns should be legal in America. Yes, it's true that I don't live there, and I'm not American, so why should I care? However, I think this outsider's viewpoint is important.
I come from a country where it's not part of the national psyche to believe that people have a right to own a gun. Not only that, it's inconceivable to me that my friends' parents -- or even my own -- might own one, were I to live in a country where it was legal. I would hate the idea of living in a house with a gun in it; it just seems threatening and unnecessary.
Obviously, there are many people in America who aren't in favor of being able to own guns, but to me it's worrying just how many people are. All the time, there are stories in the news of somebody getting shot and killed by accident, or an armed bank robbery. Even if the proposed background checks are put into practice, in reality there will always be loopholes and black markets, which mean guns are available to pretty much anybody. In the past year especially, I was struck by two horrific events involving guns: the Aurora, Colorado shooting, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. I wonder how many more devastating incidents like those it's going to take for the U.S. government to bring in stricter laws, or ban the possession of guns altogether. If Sandy Hook wasn't enough, what will be? I honestly find it hard to believe that a country which experienced that kind of tragedy hasn't taken drastic action yet.
To me, it seems blindly obvious that the arguments in favor of banning guns massively outweigh those against. Many violent crimes are committed with guns, and therefore by banning civilians from owning handguns, the number of violent crimes committed would be reduced, which can only be a good thing. Guns can be used to inflict mass casualties in a very small amount of time by people who are mentally ill and not in full control of their actions, and people committing "crimes of passion" or acting on impulses in the spur of the moment, without a thought as to what the consequences of their actions might be. Even if the guns are locked away or hidden in a house, they can still be found by inquisitive children, as we saw last week in Florida. In a few short moments, the lives of a family can be changed forever: safety locks aren't fool proof, and tragedies happen all too often.
There are other less obvious, but nonetheless important arguments as well -- a crime victim holding a gun could be at a substantially higher risk because the criminal could kill in self-defense. Guns are also complicated -- many adults don't even know how to use them, and so the argument that having one in the house for protection no longer stands. I also find the argument that women would have no means of self-defense from rape if guns were banned totally stupid -- it's not like you'd be walking around town with a gun in your bag, anyway. I actually believe the opposite -- people would be safer from street crimes, because their attacker wouldn't be wielding a gun. None of the arguments against banning guns strike me as particularly convincing. In this modern world we live in, guns really, really aren't necessary.
The solution to the problem doesn't have to be an outright ban on guns, but much stricter checks need to be carried out, and there should be laws in place which heavily restrict who is able to own a gun. To me, self-defense isn't a good enough reason. It's also true there would be a black market for guns even if they were banned completely, so doing this would in no way remove guns from the country entirely, and criminals would be able to find ways to obtain them. However, it would at least remove the risk of people acting on impulses. Maybe with enforced laws, and with enough education, it will be possible for Americans to continue owning guns whilst at the same time minimizing the risk of a repeat tragedy like the Sandy Hook shooting. However, it still seems to me that the best thing would be to ban them altogether.