Saturday, May 28, 2022

Another Mass Shooting: Will the US 'Gun Laws' Change?


Is it just another day in the USA, with yet another shooting at school?

From long before this Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, there have been scores of incidents of gunmen going berserk in the USA. But, there is hardly anything done to prevent gun sales.

In fact, a study found that 7.5 million US adults - almost 3% of the population - became new gun owners between January 2019 and April 2021 (├žlick here, for the study).

According to a BBC report, “the US ratio of 120.5 firearms per 100 residents, up from 88 per 100 in 2011, far surpasses that of other countries around the world”.

The United States, Yemen, Switzerland, Finland, and Cyprus are the top five countries in the world with gun ownership. But, here’s something more shocking. US gun ownership is nearly double that of Yemen’s, its closest contender.

But, why should ordinary citizens have access to deadly firearms? Common sense tells us that, even if we ignore pistols or revolvers, civilians should never own lethal automatic or semi-automatic assault guns.

But the powerful gun lobby will cite the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, from the Bill of Rights, which gives its citizens the right ‘to keep and bear arms'.

However, many fail to note that the US Constitution became effective in 1789, and its first 10 amendments, called the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791. It was in an era completely different from that of the 2020s.

The US founding fathers probably never imagined the shape of things to come. They may not have visualized automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons, or these extremely violent video games to which the youth are being exposed now.

The USA’s National Rifle Association (NRA) argues that more guns make a country safer. They had even argued– in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting case in Connecticut, which killed 26 people – that an armed guard would have lessened the deaths

Their logic is that if everyone is armed, in self-defense, it will reduce deaths. Citizens can even protect themselves from the government if it becomes evil.

Let’s take the case of an Australian mass shooting in 1996. In Port Arthur, Tasmania, 35 people were brutally killed by a gunman Martin Bryant.  Intellectually disabled, with a history of erratic behaviour, he had later pleaded guilty, but never gave a reason for his gruesome killing.

The then Australian Prime Minister John Howard soon banned almost all fully-automatic or semiautomatic firearms. And the government even instituted a gun-buyback program which made people surrender some 700,000 firearms. The guns were later destroyed.

The Australian said he had taken inspiration from another case in Scotland, a few months earlier. A gunman had invaded a primary school in the town of Dunblane and shot to death 16 young children and their teacher.

The UK Parliament immediately passed a law banning private ownership of handguns above .22 calibre; and in a few months, the ban got extended to “all handguns”.

Following mass shootings, both Australia and the UK had responded swiftly with tighter gun laws. But the US is just not going that way.

In 2022 so far, there have already been more than 200 mass shootings in the USA – of which 27 are school shootings - according to the Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection organization.

But, seemingly, the correct number of mass shootings, which should invoke gun law reforms, has not been reached, yet.

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Twitter handle: @joelindrupati