As America lives through another mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, British Journalist Johnny Reed writes an open letter to the country we all admire...
My name is Johnny Reed, a freelance Journalist from a city called Leeds in the UK, somewhere that geographically seems a million miles away from El Paso in Texas. Yet for some reason, today I can’t help but feel close to the Texan community in a way I never thought I would.
Yesterday their beloved El Paso suffered at the hands of Patrick Crusius, who mercilessly killed 19 innocent Americans who were simply shopping in their local Walmart store. Carrying an assault rifle, this terrorist squeezed the trigger repeatedly without thought, care, or consideration for his targets—it would be fair to say that I doubt he had any. Just take out as many as possible.
This despicable and callous spree of bloodshed has left a stark reality in my mind, one which I fear isn’t in those who govern ‘the land of the free.’ Having always held a deep affection for America and admired—from afar—your founding qualities of freedom, bravery, liberty, and unity, I tragically believe that you have lost your way. And more worryingly, it seems almost as if no one is wishing to find it again.
There will be some who will read this, and feel that I am but another left-wing, Conservative-hating snowflake who should keep my British nose out of American politics. I’m not. I have always aligned my politics with centre-right ideologies. I voted for Brexit; in the recent EU elections two months ago, I voted for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, and whilst I don’t always agree with President Trump’s policies, neither do I think he is Satan.
I am no expert on American politics, I’ve never even had the opportunity to visit your wonderful country, but to me the mass shooting epidemic which has plagued America for decades is anything but politics, the complete lack of action in response is.
As a foreign outsider looking in, America you are in the midst of a human crisis unlike anywhere else on Earth. That may sound dramatic, but I don’t even think the above description mirrors the level of gun-related discord you have been facing for far too long.
From here, over that wide expanse of Atlantic Ocean which we call “the pond,” a friendly reminder which describes the closeness between our two Nations, we have been worried for some time. That concern stems from what is seemingly complete disregard by your political establishment for your well-being.
In place of such horror and unnecessary destruction, those you elected to keep you safe, to protect your greatest and most fundamental right as a human being—the right to live, are failing you. On the website, gunviolence.org, there are over eighteen pages of reported deaths, all thanks to the pulling of a trigger again, and again, and again, and again. But nothing seems to change.
36,383 of your fellow Americans are shot dead every year. Nothing changes. 1,488 children and teens are shot dead every year. Nothing changes. You kill each other with guns 25 times, the average rate higher than any other high-income country. Nothing changes. 26 people, 20 of them children between the age of six and seven years old, are gunned down at The Sandy Hook Elementary School. Nothing changes. 58 people are killed after a gunman opens fire at a concert in Las Vegas. Nothing changes. 49 are shot dead in the LGBTQ nightclub Pulse. Nothing changes.
The Virginia Tech shooting. Nothing changes.
Sutherland Springs Church shooting. Nothing changes.
Aurora shooting. Nothing changes.
Columbine. Nothing changes.
Parkland. Nothing changes.
El Paso. I think you see the pattern.
On and on the list keeps growing as does the victim count, and nothing changes. America you are better than this, you deserve better than this.
For decades you have argued and debated what you can do to change the conversation on gun crime, how best to adapt the laws to stop these senseless shootings from happening. The discussion has always ended with a wall, not Donald Trump’s, but one emblazoned with the letters: NRA.
They constantly spout the Constitution, and being from a country which doesn’t have a written one, I can only understand so far as to why you hold every written amendment so dearly. But my question would be to you America, without malice or insult but genuine interest; is an amendment in a constitution more important than a human life?
My answer would be absolutely not, but then again, I was raised in a country which banned guns in 1997 after 16 children were shot dead at the Dunblane Primary School in Scotland. Since that dark day, one of the darkest in British history, we’ve never experienced a mass shooting since. We, over this side of the pond, learnt from our tragedy, and in the face of unimaginable despair, watched as our political establishment united to ensure it would never happen again.
It is through Dunblane, and the recent response by New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who passed a bill banning guns in less than 10 days in response to her country's deadliest mass shooting, that I don’t accept the argument put forward by some of your elected representatives, that banning guns, whether all or some, isn’t viable. You are the country which put man on the moon! You are the country which built the world’s first skyscraper. You are the America which offers a dream like no other country can. You are the land of promise and of a brighter tomorrow. Yet today it feels like you are walking in space age times with cave man minds.
I am sure that some of you will be offended by this, and that is not my intention, but I do believe the UK and the USA have a special connection, which no other two nations do. And due to that notion, I believe we can speak freely and truthfully to one another.
Whilst I hope you’re not offended America, I reluctantly believe that you should be embarrassed. No other country anywhere in the world is killing their citizens at the rate you are through mass shootings. The statistics are beyond damning. But they don’t seem to be working. Your decision makers, those who can impact the change I strongly believe many of you are crying out for, have their heads buried deep beneath the sand, and powerful forces are paying to keep them there.
Whether you listen to this letter from a Journalist from the city of Leeds, or not, is your decision. After all, everything you have just read is my opinion, but please know it comes with no malevolence or ill intent, but I strongly believe and fear that, America, you are heading beyond the point of no return.
Yesterday it was El Paso. Tomorrow… well there shouldn’t be a tomorrow for gun violence.
So America, you are a beacon of hope for many who are lucky enough to step foot on your free lands. You are a country with power and influence that daily changes the course of history. You long passed the time when action should have been taken to silence the gunfire, but you didn’t. Where do you go from here? That isn’t my place to say. But if something doesn’t change, if your gun culture remains restricted beneath an amendment in a constitution, that beacon will go out, and then America will truly be lost. And no one wants or wishes for that.
Sincerely and with sympathy,
Johnny Reed. Your British friend.