Leah Horner is a journalism junior and Mustang News study abroad columnist.
There is no official definition of a mass shooting, but according to Shooting Tracker old criteria of the FBI classifies it as at least four people being killed. This means that in 2015 alone, there have been 294 mass shootings in the United States, according to BBC.
The United Kingdom and the United States differ greatly, and one of those major differences is gun laws. In the “Guide on Firearms Licensing Law” published by the UK government, Daman Green, Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice, explained the government’s reasoning behind its harsh gun laws.
“I believe that the ownership of any firearm is a privilege and not a right, and that public safety must be paramount,” he wrote.
In the U.S., there is a different mindset. Many citizens say it is their right to own a gun, and credit the Second Amendment.
P.J. DiLorenzo, a junior at Metro State University of Denver who is studying abroad in England, said he believes this is not a valid argument and change needs to happen.
“Gun activists — people who think it’s their right — that’s their only main argument, that it’s in the Constitution,” he said. “But we change the Constitution all the time. They’re called Amendments.”
A history of mass shootings in the U.K.
The Law Library of Congress published an outline of mass shootings in the U.K., including the legislation that was created immediately after these shootings to prevent others from happening. This summary highlights the three mass shootings from the past 30 years.
The first took place in Hungerford, England in August of 1987. A man killed 16 people and injured 14 others. As a direct result of the shooting, the Firearms (Amendment) Act was passed in 1988, which banned ownership of high-powered self-loading rifles and burst-firing weapons. It also made laws regarding pump-action shotguns with a magazine of more than two bullets more strict.
The next major shooting in the U.K. didn’t occur for almost a decade. In 1996 in Dunblane, Scotland, a man went to a primary school and killed 16 children and a teacher. After this shooting, the general public agreed that civilians did not need guns. As a result, within one year, the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1997 was put into place, which essentially banned private ownership of handguns in Britain.
The government then created a 150 million pound (about 200 million U.S. dollars) compensation program from 1997 to 1998. This program allowed people to turn in their firearms to police stations and receive a monetary compensation. In less than a year, the buyback system got back 162,000 weapons and 700 tons of ammunition.
Another 13 years passed before the United Kingdom saw another mass shooting. In 2010, a man killed 12 people and injured another 25 in Cumbria, England. There was no legislation created directly from this shooting.
Today: Guns in the U.K. versus guns in the U.S.
According to the U.K.’s “Guide on Firearms Licensing Law,” released March 2015, firearm offenses make up less than 0.2 percent of recorded crime in the United Kingdom today. It is extremely difficult to obtain a gun, and authorities will do as much as interview a person, visit the person’s property, check criminal records and get references from friends. Citizens must have “good reason” to own a gun, which includes legitimate basis for work (officers), sport or leisure.
Naomi Segal, 26, grew up in London and now lives in Brighton, England. She said owning a gun in England is so rare, she could only think of one person she knew who had one.
She said when she walks down the street, around her school or into a movie theater, guns are the last thing on her mind.
“You never expect someone to come at you with a gun, never,” Segal said.
What Segal knows about American gun culture is only from the media, but in England, the stigma regarding gun laws in America is a negative one. Her impression of the U.S. and firearms is that guns are everywhere, and it’s dangerous.
“It seems like it’s all a bit of a free-for-all with the guns there,” Segal said. “Like you either own one or you get shot. I don’t think it’s that black and white, but it seems like everyone has one or everyone has access to one. You hear about people getting trained to use one from when they’re young, so it seems like it’s a really integrated part of daily life in America.”
DiLorenzo agrees with Segal, but tries to not let it affect his daily life.
“I try not to think about it,” he said. “It seems like in America, anywhere you go it could happen. Just try not to be afraid of it.”
Raised in Colorado, DiLorenzo has ties to two major mass shootings. Even though he was young, he remembers school being canceled after the Columbine shooting. He had a friend who was in the theater during the Aurora shooting and survived.
“It has to be harder to get guns,” he said. “I know everybody’s argument is if it’s harder to get guns, bad guys will still have guns and good guys won’t, but you’ve got to start somewhere. You’ve got to do something.”