Once again, America is in the throes of a furious debate about its relationship with guns. Yet another deadly school shooting – this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where an ex-student murdered 17 people – has left a lot of Americans again asking, almost rhetorically: how many more times will this happen before the country gets tough on guns?
As the surviving high schoolers of the latest massacre do the rounds in the media, arguing for politicians to stop taking the gun lobby’s cash and get tougher on weapons so children can be safe in their own classrooms, President Donald Trump is repeating the National Rifle Association’s absurd go-to solution for school shootings: arm teachers.
But one of the best contributions to the gun debate in America, perhaps fittingly, came from a horror writer.
The novelist Stephen King wrote an essay called Guns back in 2013 after the Sandy Hook school shooting, in which 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people, most of them children under the age of eight. He donates profits from its sale to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
In his thoughtful essay, King reflects on one of his own books about a school shooting called Rage, the main character in which – a mentally disturbed teenager – shoots and kills a teacher. When a student in the real world quoted from the book as he killed his teacher, and following a number of other school shootings where connections to Rage were made, King pulled it from the shelves.
King also grapples with the who, why and how of mass shootings. But it’s his conclusions on what to do about the gun issue in America that are most striking.
In the section titled, tellingly, “No Solutions, Reasonable Measures”, King argues for what amount to a range of pragmatic damage-limitation policies short of an outright ban on guns, such as restricting how much ammunition people can buy, and banning assault rifles – because who really needs an assault rifle unless you’re military or police?
“I read a jaw-dropping online defence of these weapons from a California woman recently,” King writes. “Guns, she said, are just tools. Like spoons, she said. Would you outlaw spoons simply because some people use them to eat too much? Lady, let’s see you try to kill twenty schoolkids with a fucking spoon.”
If you feel passionate about the gun debate, or are simply interested in it, you can buy Guns by Stephen King on Amazon. It’s well worth your time.