In the wake of terrorist attacks in France and the threat of similar atrocities in the UK, a call appeared on Facebook for civilians to be allowed to buy guns with which to fight back against their possible assailants. This prompted a comment to the effect that if civilians were allowed to bear arms in the UK, they wouldn’t need terrorists, they would slaughter one another as they do in the USA. The author of this comment was called a fool and also informed that Jesus wept when he was born. Name-calling usually reveals an absence of rational argument, and it is hard to imagine any tears being shed over the denial of the right to own a gun.
Another correspondent on Facebook commented that his weapons had never slaughtered anyone and they remained where he had left them. This was welcome news, but if the weapons are never used, why have them in the first place. There are cases of even seemingly well secured weapons being stolen by criminals or fired accidentally by children. It is true that most sane individuals may own guns for a lifetime and never allow them to be used to harm anyone, but it is not sane people who commit atrocities; it is the combination of insane or immature people and guns.
Young men, and some young women, in every society become frustrated with the impediments placed in their way, or disillusioned by their lack of progress in life. Often, these feelings are expressed in anger and result in conflict. If guns are available the result can be mass murder, as has happened on so many school campuses in the USA. If guns are not available, the result will usually be limited to a few black eyes and broken noses. Eyes and noses can usually be healed, and the perpetrators can be reformed, but even in the most advanced countries the cures for death are limited.
In a perfect society it might be possible to determine with complete certainty who was mentally stable enough to own a gun, and restrict the issue of licences to this select band. In the real world, however, guns will inevitable get into the hands of people who are insane, immature or of criminal intent. The only practical answer is a complete ban on civilian gun ownership. Criminals will always find ways to arm themselves, but the police have the advantage of knowing that all guns they find are illegal guns; there can be no arguments about a right to hold onto them, and every weapon can be seized. History has shown that countries which follow this policy have far less slaughter on their streets, and in their classrooms, than those which uphold a right to bear arms.