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Gun law debate back on table after mass school shooting

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Published on 21 May 2018

The gun law debate is back on the table
The gun law debate is back on the table

10 dead.

 Another American high school shooting.

 The horrifying scenes that have become all too familiar played out for the world to see.

 As the US comes to terms with the latest school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, the seemingly endless debate about the future of the country’s gun laws are, once again, firmly back on the discussion table.

 University of Sunderland academic Dr Kevin Yuill examines the controversial debate in his new book.

 The Second Amendment and Gun Control, Freedom, Fear, and the American Constitution is a collection of essays examining gun controls within debates about citizenship, culture, philosophy and foreign policy as well as in the more familiar terrain of politics and history.

 Edited by Dr Yuill, Programme Leader for History (and Joe Street of Northumbria University) he asks about the morality of gun controls and of not imposing them.

 He says: “The Second Amendment is by far the most controversial amendment to the US Constitution, yet, despite the amount of ink spilled over this controversy, the debate continues on into the 21st century.

 Initially written with a view towards protecting the nation from more powerful enemies and preventing the tyranny experienced during the final years of British rule, the Second Amendment has since become central to discussions about the balance between security and freedom.”

In Dr Yuill’s chapter - 'From Virtuous Armed Citizen to "Cramped Little Risk-Fearing Man": The Meaning of Firearms in an Insecure Era' – Dr Yuill argues that the two sides of the debate are simply alternative strategies to deal with existing insecurities.

 One side seeks a policy solution of removing all weapons while the other employs the individual strategy of ‘packing a gun’.

 He explains: “The gun debate has always been about who may wield arms and how they may use them, not about the arms themselves.

 “Before 1970, gun controls were supported by conservatives and resisted by those who sought equality. Part of American heritage, the virtuous armed citizen was a symbol of the country and the power of and trust in ordinary citizens.

 “But since 1970 the virtuous armed citizen has been under cultural attack from what is known as the ‘cramped, risk-fearing little man’.

 “The irrational ban on ‘assault weapons’, which are responsible for only a tiny number of homicides per year, and the fact that few, if any, campaigners for gun controls call for the police to be disarmed demonstrates that the real target of the campaign for more control on guns is not guns themselves but the culture of guns.

 “In a risk-fearing culture, a population fearful of its fellows trusts only the state to protect them and is offended by the power of the ordinary citizen. But, equally, the fact that gun sales rise after mass shootings and terrorist attacks, despite a historically low and falling crime rate, indicates that the purported need for a gun for protection is also the product of irrational fears.

 “Insecurity about one’s fellows drives both responses – gun controls and individuals arming themselves for self-defence.”

 The Second Amendment and Gun Control, Freedom, Fear, and the American Constitution is written to present a balanced view between those who favour more gun controls and those who would prefer fewer of them.

 Dr Yuill’s adds: “The book’s arguments are infused with the belief that through honest and open debate the often bitter cultural divide on the Second Amendment can be overcome and real progress made.”

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