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Campaigns of carnage

Will there ever be reforms to US gun laws?

Mass shootings in schools and shopping malls, doorstep killings of victims who just happen to knock on the wrong door… the wave of gun murder sweeping across the United States has prompted fresh calls for changes to the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which ensures the rights of its citizens to keep and bear arms.

Multiple motives and explanations are trotted out following each new outrage, but with gun shops and gun shows making available whole arsenals of firearms, it is not difficult for a deranged individual to embark upon a campaign of carnage. Even machine guns, though supposedly highly regulated at federal level, can be legally owned in 37 of the 50 states of America. Semi-automatic AR-15 rifles and heavy-calibre pistols are even easier to obtain and own, and the meticulously organised and influential pro-gun lobby retains the backing of numerous lawmakers, particularly in the southern states, where many of the worst massacres have taken place.

Senior figures, such as former President Barak Obama, call for restrictions on gun ownership, while knowing that some in high office would actually vote to extend firearms freedoms. Perhaps the continued glorification of gun use in film and on TV influences American public opinion, or maybe it is simply a case of: “We know our rights and no one will take them away.”

But as the killings continue, some nations respond speedily to similar events. Following two mass shootings in Serbia last month, one by a 13-year-old boy, the government offered an arms amnesty. Nearly 6,000 unregistered weapons, 300,000 rounds of ammunition and 470 explosive devices were handed in within three days. Firearms legislation in the UK in 1997 severely tightened ownership laws, leading to many thousands of guns being collected from owners who were given market value for the weapons. But any similar scenario looks unlikely in the USA.

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