Words by Savannah Strudwick
Growing up in mid-west America and moving to England for university, the difference in societal views of violence between the two similar but not-so-similar cultures immediately struck me . In America I grew up around guns. Lots of them. Not everyone I knew owned a gun, but you assumed they did. On people’s front lawns it would not be unusual to see a sign reading “I don’t call 9-1-1” with the silhouette of a handgun pictured underneath.
I think back to that, to the sheer indifference towards gun violence in America, and shudder to think how that became ‘normal’ for me. I have many happy memories of American society and life, and to me it still feels just as much like home as England does now. England is also a violent place, of course, but at least I no longer see the breaking news once a week as I’m eating my cereal saying there’s been another shooting at a middle school, or a mall, or a park. I thought it was normal for schools to regularly have a “lock-down drill”, in which teachers would lock the doors to the classrooms and turn off the lights as the students cowered under desks and against the wall, practicing for the day – should it ever come – when someone decided to enact more thoughtless and meaningless violence against innocent children. I did this three times every year for fourteen years. I remember myself only being about eight or so practicing one of these drills. I was under a desk, engulfed in darkness with only the hushed whispers of my classmates next to me, and looking at the thick glass on the windows reinforced with wire to make them as close to bullet-proof as possible, and thinking:
“this might not be a drill one day.”
When you’re exposed to such an overwhelming threat of violence as a child, in a culture that mindlessly chants the rights of the Second Amendment, you become immune to the threat of gun violence, numb even. Not even registering it as violence until you move out of that environment.
Recently on February 14, 2018, a mass shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A previous shooting a few months earlier on the night of October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada, leaving 58 people dead and 851 injured. While The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida did not suffer the same quantity of casualties, with seventeen people being killed and sixteen more injured, these numbers do make it one of the world’s deadliest school massacres. Shockingly, this is only one of the weekly school shootings that happen somewhere in America.
So what can we do? Statistically, North America sits in 92nd place out of 219 countries in the UNODC international murder rate chart. For comparison, The United Kingdom sits in 176th place. All of the countries with a lower homicide rate have two things in common, a stable government and laws that make firearms and other weapons hard to get hold of, if not illegal altogether. And it seems like an easy option, doesn’t it? The Second Amendment can be changed, many Amendments throughout American history have been, and the very term “amendment” itself refers to a temporary law or rule that can be altered or taken away at any time.
Despite the seemingly endless flow of evidence that supports the outright banning of firearms in America, will it ever happen? Probably not. The NRA – National Rifle Association – are a corrupting infestation of an organisation that make campaign contributions to many politicians, and until the day that morality overcomes greed in America, these horrific instances of gun violence will likely continue.
Read more from Savannah on her blog: An Audience for Violence