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Guns, School Shootings - and Gus Van Sant's film, Elephant (VIDEO)


Anyone concerned about the ridiculous access to guns in this country should watch Gus Van Sant's remarkable 2003 film, Elephant, loosely inspired by the events at Columbine.

The film, for the most part, has a strange semi-documentary yet almost lyrical feel to it (with some truly extraordinary Steadicam work throughout) - and captures high school life remarkably well.

It also plays with time, subtly repeating events from different perspectives. The 10 minute extract here is pretty much the culmination of the film - so if you want to watch Elephant all the way through, perhaps just stream or rent or buy it.

But these images - all the more disturbing in the wake of the appalling tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown - capture something of the inanity, randomness and tragedy of mass shootings.

And anyone who argues that guns don't kill people, people kill people, is deluded. The school shootings in Dunblane, Britain (where I'm from originally), in 1996, were one of the worst gun-related incidents EVER in Britain - and that was almost TWO DECADES ago.

Dunblane led to even stricter gun controls in Britain - a country where most people spend their lives never seeing a gun except in movies or on TV or in a video game. There are far, far fewer homicides, proportionately, in Britain (and Europe), than in the United States, simply because people don't have access to guns.

The argument that killers can use knives or iron bars or whatever else as weapons if they don't have a gun to hand just does not hold true, proportionately. Yes, they can, but they don't - statistically - on anything even nearly approaching the number of gun deaths in the United States.

Watch this 10 minute clip from Gus Van Sant's Elephant and imagine how it would feel if it were your child in this highschool - or you. Do you really think armed guards would make a difference? There was an armed guard at Columbine, and while he may have had some effect, it still didn't stop Columbine being the worst ever shooting at a US high school. 

(Virginia Tech had a far higher death toll, but it isn't a high school. Sandy Hook is an elementary school and had an even higher death toll than Columbine.)

Here are some statistics regarding mass shootings in the US since Columbine:

Newtown, Conn. Shooting: Timeline of Mass Killings Since Columbine.

For those who think I simply hate guns, I have shot them at gun clubs, I understand the appeal, but I do not think it is worth even a moment's consideration in the wake of the mass shootings and vast number of annual gun-related deaths (including suicides and accidents) in this country.

As for the Second Amendment, that was adopted in a totally different world in 1791, and relates far more to the concept of armed militias. It is not worth preserving, given the gun violence in this country.

Now watch the 10 minute extract from Gus Van Sant's Elephant, embedded above. WARNING: IT CONTAINS HIGHLY DISTURBING AND VIOLENT IMAGES, in keeping with its subject matter.


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