By Robert Mann
My LSU students had barely unpacked their bags in London in early June before the awful news landed that a shooter had killed 50 and wounded another 53 people in Orlando. What had originally been a trip to learn about Europe’s politics became a running discussion with United Kingdom, French and German acquaintances about the deplorable rate of gun violence in the United States.
The students learned much about Europe but spent too much time discussing the corrosive gun culture of the United States. By the end of the trip, as my family and I toured Scotland, we received knowing nods of sympathy when we told various Scots that we were from Baton Rouge.
Deadly news from the United States followed us wherever we went. By the end of our third day in Edinburgh, the lead story on the BCC and Sky News was the tragic deaths of three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers. Earlier, in Prague, my students and I watched as the Baton Rouge police shooting of Alton Sterling became the major news story on the continent.
Too many conversations with people along the way were some variation of this: “Why do people in the United States need so many guns? We have guns here, but only to hunt. No one needs an assault rifle to hunt.”
Not a single European citizen with whom I discussed current events – college students, hotel clerks, bus drivers, university professors and people in pubs – demonstrated the slightest bit of annoyance at being denied the “freedom” of instantaneous access to high-powered firearms. Rather, to a person, they expressed wonder at our enslavement to and acquiescence of a violent gun culture that claims tens of thousands of innocent lives each year.
Try to explain the notion of the Second Amendment to a UK citizen rightfully confused by American gun worshippers asserting the God-given right to own semi-automatic assault weapons while simultaneously (and hypocritically) praising the “right to life” movement.
People in England, Scotland, France, Germany and other European countries accept sensible laws that restrict gun ownership to those who prove they need them for sport or, in rare cases, for self-protection.
For instance, in the UK, potential gun owners must first obtain a shotgun or firearm certificate from local police. That means demonstrating the ability to safely store the gun and no history of criminal convictions, mental illness, depression or alcohol and drug abuse. As a result, England has had only one mass shooting since beefed-up gun control regulations were enacted in 1997. (As the owner of several shotguns, I would happily submit to such scrutiny.)
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