By Daniel Gaffney
Shonda Rhimes has never shied away from bringing the difficult issues in society onto our screens. Rhimes is one of the greatest screenwriters in history, her production company ‘Shondaland’ is responsible for popular programmes like Station 19, Scandal and most famously; Grey’s Anatomy. Midway through its fifteenth season, Grey’s Anatomy recently overtook ER as the longest running medical drama in history. In those fifteen years, Rhimes has regularly used her role as the show’s creator and head writer to tackle key issues like LGBTQ rights, racism and police brutality to name but a few.
Regular viewers of the show will know that Rhimes has addressed gun control several times before in her writing, most famously when the fictional Seattle Grace-Mercy West Hospital was attacked by grieving gunman Gary Clark in 2010.
On the 14th of February, an episode of Grey’s Anatomy titled ‘I walk the Line’ featured a Scottish teenage boy who had been accidentally shot during a parade, accompanied by his grief-stricken father, Seamus. Although the writers of the American series could not help themselves from cladding their Scottish characters in tartan, and introducing them as part of a bagpipe band, the message behind the storyline is poignant. Seamus’s character, played by Scottish actor Billy Boyd, embodies the frustration shared by many American parents whose children have been killed in shootings, although he looks back two decades to justify his anger.
Aired on the first anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the episode was a reference to the Dunblane School Massacre, when teacher Gwen Mayor and 16 of her pupils were killed as Thomas Hamilton opened fire on them on 13 March 1996. Given the date that the episode was aired, the episode’s message that America must introduce more gun laws to protect their children is clear. However, by using Boyd’s character to reference Dunblane, I believe that Rhimes has offered the best televised response to school shootings that we have seen to date.
Seamus: ‘Twenty years ago. A man walked into the gym and opened fire on a bunch of innocent kids. We still talk about it. We still cry about it. We still pray about it. And we changed the gun laws because of it. We said never again, and there’s never been another one.’
The USA has had 57 times as many school shootings as any other G7 nation. Shonda Rhimes couldn’t be more right about gun control because, since Dunblane, Britain has not had another school shooting. Between 2009 and 2018, America witnessed 288 school shootings. It really does go to show the effect that changing the law can have.
In 2018 there were 94 school shooting incidents across the USA. America is infected with a disease that no other developed country suffers from. The rhetoric surrounding gun control revolves around the second amendment. However, the real purpose of the second amendment has been lost in the debate.
The second amendment is wrapped around the spine of the American Dream like a tumour. It is frequently read as a constitutional right to bear arms in order to defend your own property and loved. Advocates of gun rights will tell you that the law dating back to 1791 helps to secure ‘domestic tranquillity’.
The debate around the purpose of the second amendment demonstrates how far America has drifted away from the central constitutional principles that it celebrates every Fourth of July. The argument that the second amendment blocks gun reform is the greatest lie ever told to the American public. Gun lobbyist groups like the NRA go far beyond what the second amendment stands for. It has very little to do with independence. In fact, it is arguable that James Madison originally wrote the second amendment into the Bill of Rights, not to defend Americans from a tyrannical government, but in order to consolidate his own State of Virginia, where slave owners feared revolt.
Thankfully it is highly unlikely that Britain will never see another Dunblane. But the same cannot be said for America. It is unlikely that the second amendment will be repealed any time soon. The right to bear arms in America is akin to the right to free speech or the right to vote; it is a fundamental part of American freedom.
But those across the Atlantic who still choose today to invoke their right to bear arms should listen and take notice to the message that Rhimes puts across.
We said never again, and there’s never been another one.