Editorial

Lunacy and the US pro-gun lobby

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

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Anyone who expects the pro-gun lobby in the United States to bat an eyelid over the massacre in Las Vegas on Sunday night is basically wasting their time.

We painfully came to this conclusion after their reaction to the slaughter of 20 children, between six and seven years old, as well as six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012.

After expressing outrage, grief, and offering “earnest prayer for the families of Newtown, Connecticut, who have suffered such an incomprehensible loss”, as a result of what they termed an “unspeakable crime”, the National Rifle Association (NRA) went on the defensive, called for armed guards in every school and then blamed rap music, films and video games for firearm violence.

Mass shootings in the United States, which is home to tens of thousands of Jamaicans, have become too frequent. Each time one of these episodes of madness is unleashed on the population, there are jitters here in Jamaica and, because of the close friendship between Kingston and Washington over many decades, we grieve with the American people.

Yesterday, the New York Times provided its readers with data showing that between June 12, 2016 when a gunman slaughtered 49 people in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and last Sunday, October 1, 2017, there were 521 mass shootings in the United States.

A mass shooting, the newspaper explained, is defined by “four or more people injured or killed in a single event at the same time and location”.

After the Las Vegas massacre, in which 59 people were killed and 527 injured — the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history — the gun control debate has been reignited.

But, as we stated, don't hold your breath for any significant changes to federal gun laws, even though police reported finding 23 firearms, including automatic weapons, in the room from which 64-year-old Stephen Paddock unleashed terror on concert patrons, and another 19 guns along with explosives and several thousand rounds of ammunition at his house in Mesquite, Nevada.

While it is true that the US Congress passed an assault weapons ban in 1994 that lasted for 10 years, the fact is that the law was riddled with loopholes which made it fairly easy for individuals to purchase assault weapons because, as was disclosed by a University of Pennsylvania study commissioned by the National Institute of Justice in 2005, only 18 firearm models were explicitly banned.

The upshot was that gun manufacturers were able to make slight modifications to weapons to prevent them from falling under the ban.

We have argued in this space before, and it is worth repeating, that the policy of allowing over-the-counter access to assault or semi-automatic weapons is sheer lunacy because it contributes to the mindset among some people that lives have very little value and that they, based on the weapon in their hands, can determine which human beings are beyond salvage.

The Second Amendment under which the NRA and the pro-gun lobby hides, could not have meant for unfit persons to access firearms so easily.

We maintain that only sustained, intense public pressure will bring about a change to this policy. Failing that we will continue to worry if our children and other loved ones will be among the next victims of a mass shooting.

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