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Guns - constitutional right or wrong?


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The most recent shooting in America may prove to be the final straw in the “gun debate.” Politicians, celebrities and the everyman are striking back in every media platform in existence and urging the US government to reassess the policies of gun ownership in America as a result of the devastating shootings that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday 14th December.

The loss of the twenty children and six adults who died at the hands of the mentally disturbed gunman Adam Lanza (after which he then killed himself) is not just a tragic event, but in actual fact, it is a ridiculous one. It is utterly incomprehensible that in addition to the anxieties that automatically go hand in hand with having a child, parents are now having to worry about their child's safety within the school environment.

Regardless of your own personal experiences, the school environment is meant to be considered a safe place. It is where a student is supposed to be able to find a responsible and trusted adult if they need someone to talk to and for some pupils school is regarded as a haven, a way of escaping from what may be a difficult home environment. To have the image of an institution like the school environment completely tarnished not just by one individual's heinous actions but by the very legislation that enabled him to carry them out is tragic, devastating and must be reassessed.

The issue standing in the way if indeed Barack Obama wishes to advocate a strict revaluation of the use of guns is that, as it stands, it is a constitutional right to possess a firearm for personal use. Indeed, the reason that in previous years, any political, legislative change has been extremely difficult to execute is because of the fierce public determination to exercise this right. For instance, the NRA (The National Rifle Association) - who have a membership of 4.3 million - have been the main force in advocating the personal use of guns since the group's formation in 1871.

Aside from overwhelming public support for gun ownership, the fact that the laws governing gun policy are not national but are mainly devised and implemented by individual states only emphasises the numerous obstacles that would need to be overcome in order to place tighter restrictions let alone eradicate firearms completely. Whilst in the UK we have a lot to answer for (we've previously held records for the highest abortion and teenage pregnancy rates in Europe), fortunately our policy of no guns whatsoever means that we do not have a daily fear of school shootings being carried out as the parents in America - if they didn't have before - most certainly do have now.

The rebuttal to the gun debate has been the defiant statement that these atrocities will continue to be carried out regardless of what the law states. Whilst admittedly this is true, there have also been further arguments that have transcended beyond a gun debate and has people questioning the mental health help available in America instead. Reports of the gunman Adam Lanza being classified as mentally disabled have permeated arguments that it is not so much the gun laws that are responsible for him carrying out these disturbing attacks but rather the fact that someone who was so obviously mentally disturbed managed to take hold of one in the first place. Nevertheless, the fact remains that as current legislation stands, as long as the personal possession of firearms is deemed legal (regardless in what capacity as this varies from state to state) there will always be a definite possibility that there will be more attacks like these to follow.

Whilst this is not the first public shooting to occur this year in America, it is the one that has received the most media attention and this time, the public demands more than just a tightening on gun possession laws. Whilst it is a constitutional right to possess a firearm in America, it was the human right of these innocent children to go to school and return home safely. Just as this basic right was cruelly stolen from them, shouldn't the right that enabled this to happen be taken away too?

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