Texas school shooting: Slaughter in US shows why Scotland must never be complacent about guns – Professor Joe Goldblatt

As I walked home on my residential street in a wealthy neighbourhood of Washington, DC, a late-model automobile slowly glided along beside me.

Gun-control campaigners hold a vigil outside the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, in Uvalde, Texas. (Picture: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Gun-control campaigners hold a vigil outside the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, in Uvalde, Texas. (Picture: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Parking was difficult in this neighbourhood, so I assumed the driver was looking for a spot to park his car. The car stopped a few feet in front of me and a man on the passenger side got out, faced me and pointed a gun at my head. He ordered: “Give me your wallet!”

Although I was an elected advisory neighbourhood councillor who had lobbied for more crime control and set up the first Neighbourhood Watch group, I was stunned.

I had been trained to follow the orders of just such a robber in order to save my life. Instead, due to my shock, I screamed at the top of my lungs: “Help! I am being robbed!”

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Suddenly a dozen front doors flew open and the gunman quickly got back in his car and sped away. I ran home as fast as possible and called the police.

Every time I learn of a mass murder in the country of my birth, I shudder with the memory of that night when I too could have been a casualty of gun crime in America.

There are currently more guns than people in America. And, as a result of this plethora of deadly weapons, there have been more than 200 mass shootings in the USA in 2022 alone, with 27 taking place at schools.

When I awoke to learn of the latest massacre at a school in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two adults lost their lives in a hail of bullets, I wondered how we may turn our righteous anger into positive action to reduce these atrocities in the future.

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Some will argue that guns do not kill people, rather, it is individuals with mental illness who are the problem. I firmly disagree. The availability of high-calibre and high-power weapons, capable of quickly firing multiple rounds of ammunition, is the single biggest reason why these mass shootings keep happening.

Therefore, the US federal government must immediately pass legislation to ban the sale of these weapons and also order more stringent background checks before an individual may purchase a gun.

As for the 300 million-plus guns currently being carried in America, I propose that the federal government offers a cash reward to individuals who surrender their weapons and promotes heavily the need for greater training for potential gun owners.

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Additionally, I believe that if someone must be licensed to drive an automobile, they should also be licensed to own a gun. Some US states, but not all, require a person to obtain a license before they purchase a gun. All states currently allow some form of ‘concealed carry’ of guns and many allow ‘open carry’ so that they may be displayed in public.

The wide variance in gun laws in the USA is a significant part of the problem. Most of the states’ constitutions have a clause that mirrors the second amendment to the US Constitution that protects the right of citizens to keep and bear arms.

This clause was created for the US Constitution in the 18th century and needs to be updated. However, this will require the approval of three-quarters of the US states – 38 out of 50 – and it is therefore very difficult to imagine that the law will be changed anytime soon.

Even in my home country of Scotland, I am concerned that, although we have far fewer gun fatalities than the USA, this could change quickly and our social norms could eventually, one day, weaken to the point where we too might come to accept gun violence as inevitable.

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In order to insure that this negative influence does not travel across the Atlantic to our shores, we must strengthen the penalties for persons who unlawfully possess guns and promote education and training for all citizens regarding the eminent danger of these weapons.

A few years ago, there were a number of mass murders at Jewish synagogues in Europe and I attended a programme where a senior official from Police Scotland told us there was little chance of this happening in our country.

I asked him to offer some tips of what to do if one of our worship services was attacked by a gunman and he said we should hide behind a wall and await the arrival of armed police. I looked around me and could not find a wall to hide behind.

Even as I recall the trauma I suffered many years ago when I was just one individual threatened by a man with a gun, I am now, like many others, increasingly numbed by the rising number of mass shootings taking place across the pond.

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There is no wall to hide behind. Instead of seeing a wall, I now see millions of frightened people in the land of my birth who are wondering if they or their children may be the next casualty of a massacre.

Instead of searching for an invisible wall, we must look within one another as rational and moral human beings and ask what kind of society we seek for ourselves and future generations.

I have great faith and an enduring hope that the majority of my fellow citizens in Scotland will demand greater protection, education, and training to ensure that we never follow the deadly example of our American cousins.

Joe Goldblatt is emeritus professor of planned events at Queen Margaret University. To learn more about his views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot

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