Observations of an ex pat: Gun crime in America

The answer to American gun crime is…. More guns

At least according to Donald Trump and the NRA. In the wake of the Parkland Florida shooting they want  teachers to carry guns.  But why stop there? America’s clergymen – and women—could strap on shoulder holsters.

How about scout leaders? They would look really macho with a pair of pearl-handlers dangling from their hips.

Trump’s latest daft answer to a problem is unsurprising. Every time he faces a problem involving force his knee-jerk reaction is to respond with more force or—at the very least—the threat of more force. North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, ISIS and now gun crime. Such a reaction does not solve the problem, it only insures that it keeps spiralling downwards, which is why the National Rifle Association was an early advocate of gun control in America.

The year was 1934 when the US federal government moved to ban the gangland weapon of choice—the sawn off shotgun.  Karl Frederick, who was then president of the NRA, was called upon to testify. He told a congressional hearing: “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one. … I do not believe in the general promiscuousness of the toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”

NRA support was crucial in the passage of the first gun control law. But, as you would expect, the law was challenged by gun enthusiasts citing the Second Amendment.  The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, where, in 1938, it was upheld.

The Justices said that ownership of guns was protected only in the context of the need to maintain “a well regulated militia.” The Founding Fathers did not mean it to be a catch-all right for every individual.

It was this thinking that led to the creation of the NRA in 1871. The Civil War had just ended. The soldiers had returned home and the federal army was reduced to 30,000 enlisted men and 2,100 officers.  If there was another war than the ranks would again have to be filled from the civilian population. So Civil War general Ambrose Burnside set up the NRA to teach marksmanship. No other reason.

The 1934 Gun Control Act was its first foray into politics and in 1968 it made another contribution when the gun control regulations were extended in the wake of the deaths of President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King.  By then the focus of the NRA had shifted from marksmanship to teaching gun safety.

But the 1968 law split gun enthusiasts, many of whom felt it was the start of a slippery slope towards the abolition of guns altogether. At a crucial meeting in 1975 they voted out the old guard and elected Harlon Carter as president. He was wholeheartedly opposed to any gun control legislation, established and financed the NRA’s political action committee and started the NRA on its course of guns for all at any price.  In 2008 the Supreme Court effectively reversed the 1934 decision in a case involving handguns in Washington DC. It said that the constitution protected the individual’s right to bear arms. It ignored the amendment’s references to “a well regulated militia”.

The power of the NRA—backed up by the US Supreme Court—made it almost impossible to pass any meaningful gun control laws at the federal level. But there are restrictions at state level, especially in those states that have suffered horrific mass shootings.

In 2012, twenty children and six teachers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  The Connecticut state legislature almost immediately passed some of the toughest state gun laws in America. Within a year gun-related homicides in Connecticut dropped by 40 percent.

Florida has some of the loosest gun laws in America.  The state government has issued more concealed weapon permits—1.7 million—than any other state. It is a felony for a person to keep a register or list of any kind of gun owners so the state doesn’t know how many guns there are or who owns them.  In 2016 a total of 927 people were killed by guns in Florida—500 percent more than in Connecticut.

Florida has more sunshine, but you have to be alive to enjoy it.


* American expat journalist Tom Arms is a regular contributor and author of the forthcoming book “America: Made in Britain.”

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • John Marriott 23rd Feb '18 - 9:33am

    If your only answer to the gun problem is epitomised in the sentence; “The only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” you see what the US anti gun lobby is up against with the NRA. As for the Trump idea of trained marksmen teachers in every school as a deterrent, heaven help us!

  • Steve Trevethan 23rd Feb '18 - 6:21pm

    “Florida Senator Marco Rubio—has consistently opposed any kind of gun control.Perhaps the fact that he’s accepted over 3,000,000 dollars in campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association— may have something to do with his opposition to sensible gun laws?”
    ( R Fantina, Counterpunch 16/02/18)
    Are we immune from questions related to political “contributions”?

  • nigel hunter 23rd Feb '18 - 10:00pm

    The teacher(s) carry guns. They are in the classrooms. The shooter comes along and opens fire. The teacher does not open fire,why? cos he is not in the room, he is next door. Teachers carrying guns will not solve the problem, unless all teachers carry guns. The school becomes an armed camp. yes some shooters will think twice. However Trump says these shooters are ‘mental’. If so, they will not be bothered to die and will carry out their plans.
    In the time that the gun rule was first planned the idea was sound. A violent time in an emerging country. Today the World is different and has moved on. The USA has not.

  • On matters expat.
    Thank you Layla Moran for supporting the Bill to end the fifteen year limit on the overseas vote.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Feb '18 - 10:58am

    “In the time that the gun rule was first planned the idea was sound. A violent time in an emerging country. Today the World is different and has moved on. The USA has not.”

    Not only has the USA not moved on – it seems bent on not learning from other developed countries that the best way of keeping innocent people from being shot is to restrict severely access to guns.

    But then – should we in the UK be pontificating on such issues? Some of us are pretty poor at recognising that the UK might learn at least some lessons (good or bad) from the ways in which other countries do things..

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Feb ’18 – 10:58am…………….“In the time that the gun rule was first planned the idea was sound. A violent time in an emerging country. Today the World is different and has moved on. The USA has not.”……….

    I blame Hollywood and a gullible nation.. Real history shows that carrying firearms was prohibited in almost all frontier towns; they knew what problems were caused..

    Hollywood history shows that good guys with guns are the answer to everything…

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Feb '18 - 12:51pm

    Expats – I wouldn’t disagree with you about Hollywood. I stopped watching years ago – but my long ago childhood was full of cowboys (always portrayed as the good guys) and indians (bad guys)

  • Ronald Murray 24th Feb '18 - 4:17pm

    As a third generation Liberal now Liberal Democrat with over forty years membership I find all the points made above excellent. There is no comparison to the USA in the UK or Europe.
    As someone who has held a Firearm Certificate for over forty years I am as shocked as anyone about these school massacres. In this country we have the strictest possibly firearms controls in the world. It is not easy to get a firearm certificate in this country. Having to be a member of an approved target shooting club for at least six months obtain references pass a criminal records check and finally get the support of a doctor. You may only use it under the terms of the grant target shooting, pest control, hunting and slaughtermen and vets can qualify too. No other reason if this were applied to the USA I am told it would remove 90% of permits in the US. We have no right to assault weapons in this country some US states allow machine guns. Their NRA fights for the right to carry guns our NRA and other shooting bodies run the sporting competitions and sponsor international shooting. As for Dunblane T Hamilton had complaints registered against him yet his certificate was renewed. Yet the smallest offence or drink driving will cause your certificate to be revoked. Maybe the truth will come out one day. I feel as we have banned pistol shooting we should not host the Olympics allowing other countries to compete. As for the USA Pres. Trump comes from a trophy hunting family in my opinion the lowest form of hunting do not expect much. As for the good guy with the gun not seen many instances of that in the USA. A friend told me in Florida there is a local law requiring householders to have a gun at home.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Feb '18 - 6:20pm

    @Ronald Murray
    “I feel as we have banned pistol shooting we should not host the Olympics allowing other countries to compete. ”

    Not sure what you are getting at here. For the 2012 London Olympics the government granted special dispensation to allow the shooting events to take place.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Mar '19 - 11:40am

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