|Reporter Hilary Andersson began Panorama – America's Gun Addiction (BBC1) with the words: "This is a story almost too awful
to tell." And it was.|
The recent Newtown massacre lost none of its power to horrify in this brief, harrowing recap, but perhaps sadder still is the reaction of the one-third of Americans who are terrified the tragedy might lead to some form of gun control. Sales of the type of AR-15 assault rifle used in the shootings are way up, lest anyone miss out should regulation be introduced. The National Rifle Association is talking about arming teachers; in Texas, they've already started target practice.
Defending the right of every American to carry an assault weapon with a 30-round clip in the wake of Newtown is, you might think, a big ask. Even the NRA – an organisation not known for its reticence – declined to speak to Panorama on the subject. How fortunate then for Tea Party spokeswoman Scottie Hughes, for whom the term "batshit crazy" might have been expressly minted. "It's actually more of a cosmetic, scary-looking gun," she said. "The purpose of owning one of those is to keep your enemy far away, so they don't get too close." The effective range of the largely decorative AR-15 is about the length of a football pitch; farther if you practise. I'm not sure how you know your friends from your enemies at that distance.
In truth you can't unpick the twisted logic of Hughes without gaining some sympathy for the teachers who want to arm themselves. They know how tirelessly the NRA will campaign to ensure that mentally disturbed and dangerous people can continue to buy assault rifles at gun shows without any background checks. And they know how inadequate the "Code Silver" drill one school practises – lights out, children in the cupboard, teacher behind the door with a chair in her hands – would be in the event of a copycat massacre. They're not gun nuts; they're just afraid.
Why would anyone need an AR15?