I posted the stats on gun deaths for 2002 and I got the death figures from the BBC website. The USA has a population of just under 300 million while the UK's is just over 60 million.
Links? I'm not saying your statistics are wrong, but I don't see any links. Interestingly, I was reading on the BBC website that the UK government doesn't report crime statistics. This is different than the US, where our government reports it (look up the bureau of justice statistics). The details on the reporting are very relevant, because it defines what is counted. For instance, gun deaths in the US statistics include suicides (half of the gund deaths). In the UK? I don't know, because I can't look at the website. I don't trust statistics reported by pro- or anti- gun organizations, which includes media such as the BBC. Where did they get their statistics? I'd be curious. Even the BBC has strangely pro-gun articles sometimes:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2656875.stm
I would be interested to see the numbers for the % of gun owners in each country compared with the gun deaths per capita. What I'm driving at here is that while we definitely have more incidents, even per capita, a smaller % of our gun owners may commit homicide. I don't know, because I haven't seen any statistics on this anywhere.
To my mind a handgun is useful only for killing another human being at close range they have no place in hunting and neither does a machine gun. But they are readily available for anyone to walk into a gunshop and buy.
A handgun is made for killing another person at close range; there is no argument there. While there is a niche market for handgun hunters, it is not the ideal weapon for hunting, so we can ignore it for the sake of argument here. A machine gun also has no place in hunting, and is actually illegal to use for hunting in all states. I would like to point out, though, that you cannot walk into a store and buy a machinegun here--though you probably didn't intend that through your post, I don't want anyone to get that impression. Handguns have much more stringent requirements than long guns in general, but it is true that many shops sell them here.
The UK has a very violent past but we don't have the same current violent gun culture the US has, which is not based on hunting in my view.
It is true; we have cultural differences. I hope that I didn't imply that the US's violent culture is based on hunting, as it isn't. The wish for gun ownership is based (at least partially) on hunting. The violent culture here is from a montage of different things too numerous to list here, probably little to none of which has to do with hunting.
My father in law recently went to the USA to visit some American friends and he was amazed to see his friend taking a handgun out with him to go for a dayout. How bad is it in America that carrying a gun seems a good idea?
This is ridiculous. If you live in an area where you need to carry a handgun to feel safe, you need to move. I have never had to carry a gun with me 'for a day out'. Your father's friend is paranoid. That is NOT commonplace here in the US. The media hypes everything up and would make you believe that it is commonplace, but it isn't. This isn't the wild west. The only places I've ever carried guns are out in the sticks (rural areas) where we were hunting or on one or two occasions when we were going into an area with a lot of poisonous snakes.
There is a mindset in America that problems can be solved with a gun. If you can not change that or limit the availability of handguns that these incident will continue.
This view is exaggerated by the media. While the media pervades our lives here and fewer and fewer people can think for themselves (thus this is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy), it is incorrect to assume that the general mindset in the US is that problems can be solved with a gun. You then assert that this mindset needs to change, even though it may not exist anywhere besides Hollywood, the media and a few nuts out there.
School shootings with handguns may decrease if the availability of handguns decreases, but other things may take their place, like bombings. In the US, only about 13% of the murders are comitted with knives (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/weapons.htm#weapons
), but in the UK, about 30% are comitted with knives, most likely because guns are illegal (http://www.murderuk.com/misc_crime_stats.html
) Interestingly, gun crime in general has been going down over the past 10 years or so in the US (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/firearmnonfatalno.htm
). So, say what you want, but statistics can prove just about anything.
Is it a case where if school shootings are becoming relative commonplace, how much misery has to be suffered to break the mental barriers you mention?
I wouldn't say that school shootings are commonplace. They are certainly recieving more media attention now, and they may be becoming more common, but they are not commonplace. This society would be in anarchy if that were true. School shootings are still very rare, even here in the US, where the occurrance rate is higher than in other countries. I don't know how much misery has to be suffered to break the barriers; at the same time, I also don't know what price we're willing to pay as a society for the freedom to own a firearm. Constant Thinker is correct when he says that people here can be rabid about not letting the government tell us what we can or can't do, which includes owning firearms. If we as a society are willing to shoulder the burden of the tragedies our freedoms afford us, then I would argue that it is our society's right to keep them.
I don't mean to slam England, but I consider it too much of a police state to live there. The fact that swords and other 'combat' knives are illegal (see above report) seems odd to me. Humans are always going to find a way to kill each other, and we're silly to think that we can outlaw the means to do so. The fact that London and other major cities take pictures of cars' license plates, feed the data into a computer system and track the movements of automobiles to 'detect terrorist activity' is ludicrous (http://www.video-surveillance-guide.com/video-surveillance-revolution.htm
) (my opinion on the subject is well reflected by the author here: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/10/automatic_licen.html
). The fact that the common citizen can't carry anything for their own personal defense or even legally fight back is difficult for me to swallow. I believe that is a cultural difference, too. I, like many of my fellow Americans, do not wish to relinquish my personal power to the police and the government. The UK police have greater power than the US police, and though they don't daily carry guns, they certainly have the capability (just look at the murder of the Brazilian man in the subway after the July bombings). I want to live under a government that fears the citizen, not the other way around. I would warrant that Limpet Chicken would have an earful to say on that subject.