America's mass shootings are turning the country into a real-life zombie movie. But still gun control is seen as 'unAmerican' – Kenny MacAskill

Harsh punishments for gun crime do not appear to make the US any safer

Scrolling through social media, I came across extraordinary statistics contained in short, even anodyne tweets. Even a momentary reflection on the posts by a journalist

from the news outlet ProPublica showed the extent of the gun tragedy continuing to unfold in America.

The first relayed that as of May 7 – 127 days into 2023 – 13,900 people had been shot to death in the USA. The second that in Texas, a state almost as proud of its liberal gun laws as it is of the Alamo, the past six decades had seen 19 mass shootings killing a total of more than 200 people. Since that latter tweet, there’s been yet another, compounding the number and shamefully the death toll.

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Yet the journalist also narrated all the attempts that had been stymied in the Lone Star State to ensure modest and mitigatory actions, rather than the outright banning of firearms. It’s well recognised there, as across the country, that incremental actions on gun control are all that can be achieved at the moment. But even modest actions, like requiring background checks or restricting semi-automatic weapons, are disdained as unAmerican, in a manner Joe McCarthy would admire, impinging on civil liberties which somehow don’t apply to innocent children or shoppers.

People attend a candlelight vigil for victims of a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, in January. Eleven people died and nine more were injured (Picture: Mario Tama/Getty Images)People attend a candlelight vigil for victims of a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, in January. Eleven people died and nine more were injured (Picture: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
People attend a candlelight vigil for victims of a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, in January. Eleven people died and nine more were injured (Picture: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

That it’s some God-given right of Americans is nonsense. I’m reading Ron Chernow’s superb book Hamilton, about the life of an exceptional man, but also the machinations of revolution and the formation of the US. The right to bear arms comes from an age of muskets, not AK47s, and was geared towards restricting the chance of tyranny.

Instead, the solution is to punish the perpetrators or simply shoot them dead. I’ve friends in America whose son perpetrated a horrendous crime for which he had to be punished severely. He was on trial not because he denied the shooting whilst zonked on drugs but because the state wanted the death penalty. The jury chose life without parole.

Leaving aside my belief that almost everyone’s capable of redemption and thousands languish in that living death, has it made Texas any safer? Still the shootings keep on coming as in some zombie movie, not 21st-century America. Gun control, not harsh punishments, are what’s needed.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian