By Daniel Lawrence and Daniel Ostberg, University Scholars
As they watch social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter broadcasting videos almost every day of gun deaths in the United States, British citizens say they can’t fathom America’s gun culture.
“Nine year olds smoke in the UK, but nine year olds have guns in the U.S.” says Tyrone, a black man in his mid-20s from Cambridge, England.
Gun deaths occur far less frequently in Britain then in the United States. A 2013 University of Sydney Public Health Department study found that gun deaths were 48 times more likely to occur in the U.S. than the UK. The number of mass shootings in the U.S. was almost double the number of gun deaths in Britain over the same period of time, the study found.
Citizens and police in Great Britain are routinely unarmed, giving the country one of the lowest rates of gun homicides in the world. Since the start of 2015, just five people were killed by law enforcement officers in the United Kingdom, according to Inquest, a small charitable organization focusing on people killed by police. Over that same period of time, 1554 people were killed by law enforcement officers in the United States.
“The major difference is that there are no guns with British police,” says Samara Linton, a British university student.
Isa Weddell, a woman in her 60s from Edinburgh, agrees. “It scares the daylight out of me when I see a policeman with a gun,” she says.
Great Britain has been controlling guns for more than a century, starting with the Pistols Act of 1903. The 1996 Dunblane school massacre is the only school shooting in the history of Britain. Immediately afterwards the country banned handguns.
“You need a license to even buy air rifles in the UK,” said Tristen, a student in Cambridge who spent several years in Florida.
British young people are particularly horrified by the toll guns are taking on American children. Walt, a teenager from Cambridge talks about the numerous Facebook posts he has seen showing American kids either ending their own lives or the lives of others with the help of a firearm. “A lot of kids lives were ruined by guns in the U.S.,” he says
According to the The Trace, an independent news organization focusing on guns in the U.S., about 560 children under the age of 12 were killed with guns in 2015 Many British young people say that after the past year, they have lost hope that America’s gun culture will change. “Why are there so many guns in that country?” asks Craig Cowen, a 28-year-old program officer at an aid agency from Perthshire, Scotland
His friend John Gall, a 27-year-old Glaswegian engineer from Glasgow quickly responds: “[The U.S.] wouldn’t know what to do to take them away.”
Daniel Lawrence and Daniel Ostberg present one of many opportunities for students to report from abroad.