Friday, June 4, 2010

Our Gun Laws Are Strict Enough? I Don't Think So

I have read with horror about the gun massacre in Cumbria, while sitting on a lounger on an immaculate sandy beach in Barbados with the surf roaring in my ears.

And I read with interest that David Cameron is stating that a knee jerk reaction to the UK's current gun laws is not the answer - that we already have one of the strictest gun policies in the world.

That may be so - but in my experience that hasn't prevented guns being legitimately in the hands of a person who has proved themselves to be a potential threat.

The person I am referring to is my ex step-father.

I lived with him over 25 years ago, at which time he possessed a gun licence for, I believe, two shotguns.  They were stored in a gun rack in the bedroom.  I don't remember them ever being under lock and key.  I don't recall if they were loaded or where the cartridges were, which is probably just as well given my own fragile state of mind at the time.

If I were being kind I might describe this man as being paranoid and delusional.  The reality of it was that he was an alcoholic schizophrenic with violent and paedophile tendencies, who terrorised my mother, my sister and I for years.  I am grateful now that, in the moments of his deepest drunken rages, he didn't load his guns and kill us all - but I still wouldn't have put it past him at any second of any given day.

In fact the only time a gun was ever brandished in the home as a threat (that I remember) was when I pulled one off the wall and hit him with it.  It was in the middle of the night, on one of the many occasions he was beating my mum to a pulp, and seemed to me the quickest and most effective means of getting him to stop.  It worked.  He left the house and drove off in our family estate to God knows where, careering wildly along the road.  Externally the doting family man who adored his step daughters.  In reality, a tortured, unhinged madman capable of anything when he'd had a drink.

During my late teenage years I often fantasised about having the courage to use one of his own weapons to kill him - there would have been a certain poetic justice in that action.  However, the thought of a life long prison sentence proved to be a sufficient deterrent.  Despite my fear and hatred, I still didn't want to sacrifice my own life for his.

Yet now I wonder if he is still a danger to those close to him or society at large.  And if he is still a registered gun owner.  It sickens me to say that if I ever read he has gone on a rampage and killed either people he knew or complete strangers, it wouldn't surprise me in the least.  I believe he lives in Lincoln.  I am relieved that I don't.

How many guns are in the hands of people like this in the UK today, I wonder?  What action, or series of actions, would it take to make this seemingly social person flip?

In order to prevent people from being a danger to society, can gun laws ever be strict enough?

Not in my mind they can't.

I currently live in an area of Chicago populated predominantly by communities where drugs and guns are commonplace.  A young boy was shot dead by a fellow student at the local High School last summer, no more than 100m from my house.  The house on the corner, probably 5 doors away, is home to two convicted drug and gun dealers who have just been released from prison after serving their sentences.  I am cautious in my neighbourhood and it is certainly not an ideal environment to raise my two boys, yet I am rarely afraid.  Maybe I am being naive but I tend to think that if I treat my neighbours with respect that they will return the favour in kind.  I also believe that the guns are predominantly used in gang related interactions and, unless I am unfortunate enough to be caught in the cross-fire, we will be safe.

Still.  I am cautious.  And careful not to create enemies.

As an aside, it would interest me to know the percentage of registered gun owners in the UK who are women.  I can't imagine the percentage is high.  I understand that men have an inherent instinct to be hunters - yet personally I would ban all gun use and get them to take up kickboxing, or paint balling, or laser tag instead.  As I said.  I am inherently not a hunter but a nurturer.  I am inherently naive.  I don't understand the fascination with guns and the desire to use them as sport to hunt wildlife.  I am sure it must be thrilling and obviously provides a certain satisfaction - personally, I get that from tracking down my must-have shoes in a 50% off sale.

My choice of deadly weapon will always be the stilletoe heel instead of a bullet.  I am sure the death toll would have been a lot less if that had been the case for Derrick Bird.


  1. I'll all for a replacement of guns with shoes. Except...dammit. I don't have any guns. Can I have the shoes anyway?

  2. People will always find a way to get guns if they want them...there is no doubt about that. I have seen it and know it to be true.

    As far as gun laws (I speak for laws in the US in this case), my ex shot a man in the hed when he ws 16 with the intent of killing him. The mam lived but will be in a wheelchair the rest of his life. He served 2 years in a state school and was then released on the generla public with a sealed juvenile record that allowed him to purchase as many guns as he wanted. As fr ass the authoritities were concerned, he ws ok. As far as I waas concerned, he was a strung-out paranoid who was a danger to himself and everyone around him. I finally sked the local pawn shop to stop selling him guns, which they did. They would not, however, sell me a gun to protect myself from this loon once we split up. Go figure.


  3. OMG Amazing post - seriously... some of it SO brave.

    I daren't blog about my "gun experience" for fear of being excommunicated from the blogosphere. Well, maybe someday.

  4. I am SO against guns I can barely talk about it to many Americans. What really, really annoys me about the US is that even where there are supposed to be gun purchasing restrictions, background checks and the like, you can actually go to gun shows in most states and they don't even ask for ID. This is a ridiculous situation which most politicians are aware of but choose to leave it as a loophole.
    These gunshows are where most of the guns used in violent crimes come from.

  5. You've written about your stepfather before and from what you said then, the thought of him owning guns makes my blood run cold.

    I guess you can't prevent farmers and the like from owning guns but maybe there should be some kind of social services check on gun owners to make sure they aren't potential crazies - after all you have to have a CRB check to work with kids, so why not to own a gun?.

  6. Your personal experience makes that whole rampage even more scary. Awful to think how many other men might be only a few turns of the wheel away from that.