I’ve just been looking up the Wikipedia entry for the AR-15. In its usual comprehensive style the entry gives you everything you need to know about one of the guns that James Holmes used to kill 12 people and wound 58 when he went on his shooting spree in Colorado. 'The AR-15 is a lightweight, 5.56 mm, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed, semi-automatic rifle, with a rotating-lock bolt, actuated by direct impingement gas operation or long/short stroke piston operation. It is manufactured with the extensive use of aluminum alloys and synthetic materials.'
What took my notice was a paragraph lower down discussing the ins and outs of the hazards of after sale modification that can threaten to turn the gun into an illegal automatic: 'This situation is particularly poignant for owners of AR-15 rifles as a previous non-felon named David Olofson an Army Reservist with 16 years in the US army, loaned a 20-year-old AR-15 rifle to a prospective buyer for four months which was found to have fired multiple rounds on a single trigger pull at a gun range. After law enforcement intervention, he was charged with and found guilty in January 2008 of illegally transferring a machinegun when the AR-15 was found to have malfunctioned (defense contention)/purposely-modified (prosecution contention), was sentenced to thirty months in the Sandstone federal prison in Wisconsin by a Federal Judge.' How very poignant, indeed.
Nowhere in the piece are the actions of Homes cited. It does not appear to be thought relevant. And, to his very considerable shame, neither has the President of the United States uttered one word to suggest that some sort of gun control might be a good idea worth campaigning for. For Mitt Romney to do so would be electoral instant suicide. Every now and again America’s deep seated weirdness, it’s almost autistic inability to join cause to effect, does make one pause.
For all our whinging and whining, our G4S debacles, our Eurozone woes, our phone-hacking tabloids, our damp early Summers, our lousy London tube system, it remains a reassuring thing to remember that 51 people were killed by guns in the UK last year. That is, of course, 51 too many. The corresponding figure for the USA, however, was 31,347. The accompanying photo, by the way, is of a Hello Kitty customised but fully functioning AR-15.