For The Observer/Guardian UK
There are 200 million guns in civilian hands in the United States. That works out at 200 per lawyer. Wade through the foaming websites of the anti-semites, weekend militiamen and Republicans, and it becomes clear that many among America’s well-armed citizenry have performed the same calculation. Because if there is any hope of the ceasefire that they fear, it will come out of the barrel of a law suit.
First, the score. Gunshot deaths in the US are way down – to only 88 a day. Around 87,000 lucky Americans were treated for bullet wounds last year; 32,436 unlucky ones died, including a dozen policemen by their own weapons. In one typical case, a young man, Steven Fox, described feeling pieces of his brain fly from his skull after a mugger shot him. He is permanently paralysed.
But, hey, that’s business for you. And what a business it is. Guns, ammo and accessories are a $6bn-a-year honey pot for several corporations: Browning, Smith & Wesson, Colt and others.
Britain loves stories of gun lust in the US. It is an opportunity for snooty comparisons with America’s crude and lawless society. This drives Elisa Barnes crazy.
Barnes is the lawyer who recently brought a groundbreaking law suit against handgun manufacturers, which were found negligent in the shooting of Fox. “You [European] guys are so smug. Glock, Browning, Beretta have these refined European owners. Smith & Wesson is the number one seller of killer guns – and it’s owned by Tomkins plc, of England.”