MASS shootings in American schools do not become any less horrifying each time they happen, but it could be argued that they have become somewhat less shocking due to their depressing frequency.

According to figures produced by American research agency Everytown for Gun Safety, there have been 142 school shootings in the US in the last five years.

And in 2018 alone there have been 43.

The latest shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas claimed the lives of ten people amid shocking eyewitness reports of terrified students covered in blood running for their lives.

And this came after February’s attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida which killed 17 people.

In the aftermath of the Florida atrocity, survivors held vigils, petitioned city councils and state politicians, and organised protests in a grass-roots movement which put pressure on politicians to reform gun control.

Indeed these terrible incidents are more often than not accompanied by politicians, celebrities and anybody with a social media account engaging in fierce debate over Americans’ right to bear arms.

And now University of Sunderland academic Dr Kevin Yuill has examined the controversial debate in his new book.

“The Second Amendment and Gun Control, Freedom, Fear, and the American Constitution” is a collection of essays examining gun controls within debates about citizenship, culture, philosophy and foreign policy as well as in the more familiar terrain of politics and history.

Edited by Dr Yuill, programme leader for history, and Joe Street of Northumbria University, Dr Yuill asks about the morality of gun controls and of not imposing them.

He says: “The Second Amendment is by far the most controversial amendment to the US Constitution, yet, despite the amount of ink spilled over this controversy, the debate continues on into the 21st century.

“Initially written with a view towards protecting the nation from more powerful enemies and preventing the tyranny experienced during the final years of British rule, the Second Amendment has since become central to discussions about the balance between security and freedom.”

In one chapter, Dr Yuill argues that the two sides of the debate are simply alternative strategies to deal with existing insecurities.

One side seeks a policy solution of removing all weapons while the other employs the individual strategy of ‘packing a gun’.

He explains: “The gun debate has always been about who may wield arms and how they may use them, not about the arms themselves.

“Before 1970, gun controls were supported by conservatives and resisted by those who sought equality. “Part of American heritage, the virtuous armed citizen was a symbol of the country and the power of and trust in ordinary citizens.

“But since 1970 the virtuous armed citizen has been under cultural attack from what is known as the ‘cramped, risk-fearing little man’.

“The irrational ban on ‘assault weapons’, which are responsible for only a tiny number of homicides per year, and the fact that few, if any, campaigners for gun controls call for the police to be disarmed demonstrates that the real target of the campaign for more control on guns is not guns themselves but the culture of guns.”

Dr Yuill says that in a “risk-fearing culture”, the population is fearful of its fellow citizens and trusts only the state to protect them, while being offended by the power of the ordinary citizen.

He adds: “But, equally, the fact that gun sales rise after mass shootings and terrorist attacks, despite a historically low and falling crime rate, indicates that the purported need for a gun for protection is also the product of irrational fears.

“Insecurity about one’s fellows drives both responses – gun controls and individuals arming themselves for self-defence.”

Dr Yuill’s book is written to present a balanced view between those who favour more gun controls and those who would prefer fewer.

He says: “The book’s arguments are infused with the belief that through honest and open debate the often bitter cultural divide on the Second Amendment can be overcome and real progress made.”

It is fair to say that better understanding can facilitate change, but whatever happens to gun control in the future will not bring back the innocent young lives already lost.