Are Americans starting to realise guns are bad?

Family and friends comfort one another after the shooting (photo: Star Tribune)

Family and friends comfort one another after the shooting (photo: Star Tribune)

June 10 will not go down in American history. Years from now, likely only a handful of people will remember and commemorate the events of this date. The day will not be etched in infamy.

On June 10, another gunman entered another high school and took the life of another student. Such tragedies barely cause a ripple in the 24-hour news cycle anymore, besides the perfunctory shots of distraught families at the scene, the candlelight vigils held that night or the next, and the usual empty words and hollow consolations offered by politicians trying to appease and recognise families and victims without the slightest hint towards tighter gun controls that may peeve the gun lobby.

June 10, the shooting of high school student Emilio Hoffman in the small Oregon township of Troutdale, was the 74th school shooting since the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012 which left 26 students and teachers dead.

There have been nine school shootings already in June alone, according to data from Everytown For Gun Safety.

Western Australia instituted a shark cull after less than a handful of unrelated shark attacks across the country. The entire country was subjected to some of the tightest gun control laws in the world after a single mass shooting in Port Arthur in 1996. McDonalds coffee cups are branded with the warning “hot contents” after likely one customer forgot their fresh-brewed beverage would be warm. Clothes irons come emblazoned with warnings of “do not iron clothes while you are wearing them”. The world legislates and goes to great pains to try and stave off the most cringe-inspiring examples of stupidity, yet after 74 school shootings in 18 months – an average of one every single week – gun control is barely even on the table.

Indeed, gun control is SO FAR OFF the table budding entrepeneurs are even taking measures to protect students from shootings. Because actually making guns harder to access would be plain lunacy (not to mention political suicide) American company Protecht has revealed its Bodyguard Blanket, a “Bullet resistant protective blanket for children and adults.”

“Bodyguard™ blanket was developed and tested to specifically protect our children and teachers in the event of a school shooting. Bodyguard™ blanket is designed to be bullet resistant. It is made of the same materials our U.S. soldiers wear while in battle, and is equal to or exceeds the protection used by our police departments. After extensive research, it is estimated that Bodyguard™ blanket provides bullet resistant protection against 90% of all weapons that have been used in school shootings in the United States,” reads the product description on Protecht’s website.

The idea being, that guns and shootings and violence are simply part and parcel of life – the only thing we can possibly do, is protect ourselves from the inevitable. But unlike building hurricane shelters to hide from cyclonic winds, or having fire or flood evacuation plans, guns and shootings are not simply natural, unable to be stopped. Rather than creating an entire new industry based around enduring or surviving shootings, what if we – for instance – made it harder to access guns? Provided greater support and funding for mental health services and early outreach programs? Worked to denormalise gun violence in society?

But Americans love their second amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, and nothing – not no dead kids, not no gallons of blood spilled or scores of families torn apart or bad press around the world – is going to pry the automatic assault rifle from the hands of khaki-clad Walmart employee in Kentucky. Americans seem to love the parts of their law that give them gun rights, but seem somehow less hung up on the parts that outlaw killing other citizens.

Barack Obama, with the buzzer fast approaching on his presidency and no more elections left to win, is edging toward support for tighter gun control. In a Q&A session on Tumblr – Tumblr? Come on Barack, it’s 2014, get a Snapchat story happening – he voiced his hopes for gun reform, saying his inability to move faster on arms legislation as one of his biggest failures.

“My biggest frustration is that this society hasn’t been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do damage. We’re the only developed country where this happens. And it happens weekly. Our levels of gun violence are off the charts,” he said. Strong words. But he then also hedged his bets, putting the onus firmly back on the voters by adding “If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.”

So here we have it; 74 school shootings in 18 months, a company cashing in on the violence by framing gun violence as simply a fact of life, and a president still unwilling to make moves on the issue until he is dragged kicking and screaming to the negotiating table by an overwhelming majority of voters.

Because somehow, children’s lives are less important than your freedom to loose a few rounds from your ankle-holster pistol to unwind after work.

Candlelit vigil after the shooting at Oregon (Photo: NY Daily News)

Candlelit vigil after the shooting at Oregon
(Photo: NY Daily News)

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