An open letter to the NRA...
America has experienced another tragedy. Another massacre of innocents. And, as is so often the case, it happened because of a person with a gun. That person - a man who is now being labelled as an Islamic extremist, despite his family insisting that he wasn't religious and openly admitting that he was deeply homophobic - went into a gay club and took the lives of men and women who were just having a night out, enjoying themselves. They expected to dance, have a few drinks and enjoy the company of friends. They didn't go out, expecting to die.
The night before those innocent men and women were needlessly slaughtered, singer Christina Grimmie was shot dead, whilst meeting fans after a show.
The fact that we could go further, highlighting other fatal shootings in the previous week, let alone over the course of the past year, is, quite frankly, shocking. America is a great nation, but those statistics are shameful.
Let me tell you a story. In 1996, a man named Thomas Hamilton burst into a primary school in the small town of Dunblane, Scotland. Armed with four legally owned handguns, he proceeded to fire rapidly and seemingly randomly. In the horror that followed, sixteen children were killed, most of them just five years old. Their teacher was also shot dead. Hamilton then turned the gun on himself.
The class of Primary 1 at Dunblane, with their teacher, Gwen Mayor.
By 1997, in response to the tragedy, the UK government had banned handguns. They reasoned that logically, the only response to gun violence was tighter gun control. It worked. In the 19 years since handguns were banned in Britain, we've had just one mass shooting, when a licensed firearms holder named Derrick Bird shot and killed 12 people in Cumbria in 2010.
How many mass shootings have you had since 1997?
You see, the response you give to tragedies - and there have been many over the years - is that "the only person who can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." So, tell me: why was the armed officer working security at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on Saturday night unable to stop the "bad guy with the gun"? Could it be that your logic is skewed?! After all, most attackers will aim to neutralise an armed threat before continuing shooting innocents with impunity. If they're successful in neutralising that threat, how does the "good guy with a gun" save any lives?!
Your answer to gun violence is, seemingly, more guns. Shooting at a school? Arm teachers. Shooting in a shopping mall? Arm everyone. But here's the thing: throwing a grenade at another grenade just makes a bigger bang. It doesn't stop the destruction. One gun doesn't magically cancel out another.
It's a cup of tea. Because I'm British, see?
Every nation, no matter how much we try to avoid it, has a stereotype. I'm British, therefore you'd probably view me to be someone who enjoys queueing for things, drinks lots of tea and whose upper lip is permanently stiff (I quite like a cuppa and I queue for gigs, but just so we're clear, my upper lip quivers all over the place, particularly when I get emotional about stuff like this). Were I Dutch, you might imagine me to be wearing clogs. If I was Italian, perhaps you'd think of me as being passionate and mad-keen on pasta/pizza. But what about the American stereotype?
This is going to sound harsh, NRA, but you need to hear it: THIS IS WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE TO THE REST OF THE WORLD. You look like a nation who clings so stubbornly to your guns that you refuse to tighten control in order to protect your civilians. You look like a nation who puts your "constitutional right to bear arms" above the rights of men, women and children to go to school, to the mall, to the cinema, to church or on a night out, without the potential for it to be the last thing they ever do. In the hours after a mass shooting, there were already comments appearing on Twitter about how wrong it would be to have tighter gun control. And the rest of the world? The rest of the world is doing that thing, where they're so horrified by something that they laugh, because they can't believe it could possibly be serious. The rest of the world is laughing at the NRA. Except it's not funny. It's not funny when people are being slaughtered every week, because you'd rather protect the right to have guns than the right to be safe. And it's not funny when more and more American citizens are expressing their desire to have the issue of gun control looked at seriously. More and more Americans are calling for action. You're ignoring them. You're ignoring them whilst your citizens die. You're ignoring them whilst mothers grieve in front of TV cameras. You're ignoring them whilst the rest of the world shows you their statistics on mass shootings and proves time and again that greater control is necessary.
Your advocates trivialise the issue by making statements such as "well, baseball bats can kill people, too. Want to ban those?!" in the wake of tragedies such as the one in Orlando. But comparing a blunt, wooden implement to a weapon firing bullets capable of tearing a human body apart is immature at best, deeply disrespectful to the dead, at worst. You go into a nightclub with a baseball bat and try to kill fifty people before you're stopped. Do you seriously think you'd succeed?
You claim guns make people safe. You seem to believe that in an America with gun control, your president wouldn't have armed guards. Your police wouldn't have the fire power to protect civilians from violent criminals. I CALL BULLSHIT. In the UK, where we have strict gun controls, our security forces are armed. Our politicans are protected by guards with guns. We have specially trained fire-arm officers in our police force. Those who require protection are protected. And you know what? Mass shootings are so rare in this country that I didn't have to Google the name of Thomas Hamilton and I only had to Google the date of the Cumbrian attacks. We remember. We learn.
Nobody is suggesting that you live in an America in which the president isn't protected by armed guards. If you still want to have your police force carry guns, I'm sure that doesn't have to change, either. But just who is being protected by having weapons and ammunition on sale in stores where families do their weekly shop? Who needs the freedom to buy bread, milk and a rifle? How many incidents can you list in which a family has saved their own lives and the lives of others by having easy access to a gun in their home? And does that number of incidents even remotely compare to the number of violent shootings your country has had this year alone?
The word "ammendment" refers to a change. If you want to spare the tears of yet more families torn apart - if you want the world to see America as great again, to quote the man I pray will never be president - then another change is needed. It's time for the NRA to wake up. The ridiculous number of shootings in America can be dramatically decreased. It's just a question of whether you're prepared to put human lives before guns.
Wake up. Make a change.
As it happened, several hours before the shooting in Orlando, I filmed my latest YouTube video, which just happened to be about respecting one another's differences, rather than hating one another. Should you wish to see it, it's here: