By Ashlee Pitts
Is it possible to become numb to violence and tragedy? For many Americans, reading or hearing about yet another mass shooting in the United States is a recurring experience. The use of lethal force by police officers, casualties in gang related turf-wars, school shootings, “lone wolf” terrorist attacks and random assaults on soft targets seem to dominate the US news media cycle with one event happening shortly after another and thereon. While death is actually a normal part of life it seems as though it is everywhere we look and turn; in our newspapers, films, television and in the eyes of those struck by senseless violence and tragedy.
Stories of death and survival due to gun violence mercilessly engulfs American newspapers, radio broadcasts, television news and social media outlets. The American public remains divided on how to tackle gun control with the purpose of reducing violence while also upholding, defending and honoring the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution. President Obama’s most recent executive order on gun control has created a blanket of fear and mistrust of the government on many communities throughout the nation that fiercely believe in the right to carry a firearm regardless of the reason for having it. For others, President Obama’s executive order offers a breath of fresh air, a glimmer of hope and a long-awaited step forward towards change for many people who have lost a loved one to gun violence and want to see action taken now.
On 14 December, 2012, an unhinged man whose motive for the attack still remains unknown stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and murdered twenty children and six teachers before killing himself. The country was shaken to its core. Parents all across the country held their children a little tighter in the days following the massacre. First responders to the attack were hailed as heroes as they worked to identify the bullet-riddled bodies of the children. Some were so badly assaulted that they were unrecognizable. President Obama cites this tragedy as the “worst day” of his Presidency and vowed to make tougher gun laws. Many believed that the slaughter of nearly two dozen school children would spark dramatic change in gun control policy on the federal and local legislature. To the astonishment of the Obama administration, the recommendation of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to preventing tragedies like the Sandy Hook massacre is simply: more guns. The Senate has presumably obliged, as no comprehensive plan or legislation to reduce gun violence has been passed even after the slaughter and execution of six and seven year-old children. In a country where even a suburban elementary school is not safe from gun violence, then presumably nowhere is safe and that mentality is just one of the many reasons why gun sales in the United States have skyrocketed. There were 372 mass shootings in 2015 with sixty-four of them being school shootings. When the NRA and the majority Republican Congress suggest more guns and less gun control after yet another mass shooting, they are implying that America’s deeply rooted and fierce protection of the 2nd Amendment outweighs any attempt to reconstruct gun culture in the United States.
President Obama’s Executive order on Gun Control
The main components of President’s Executive order include enforcing and building upon efforts to utilize background checks. The idea of gun manufactures incorporating digital technology was proposed in the Senate over a decade ago but the President is reinvigorating this innovative proposal by comparing security measures we take with smartphones and fingerprint authorization. The White House maintains that it is in no way the President’s goal to confiscate or take away guns from responsible gun-owners.
Many advanced countries like those of France, the United Kingdom and Australia have strict gun laws and to the naked eye it would seem that those policies are working. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime “of all the murders in the US in 2012, 60% were by firearm compared with 31% in Canada, 18.2% in Australia, and just 10% in the UK. Granted, countries like Australia, Denmark, France and Germany do not have a “right to bear arms” clause in their respective constitutions and legislation. Automatic firearms are strictly prohibited in the countries that were named as well as many other countries within Europe including the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Austria. Even in the cases of semiautomatic firearms and handguns, the strong majority of advanced countries either prohibit them or have heavy restriction. Crimes are a part of every society. That is a fact that every country will have to face. It is worth noting that most advanced countries have strict gun laws but do not experience even close to the amount of the violence that the US endures throughout the year.
Paris’ Terror Attacks
“Isn’t it interesting that the tragedy in Paris took place in one of the toughest gun control countries in the world?” – Donald J Trump (7 January, 2015 Tweet- Referring to the Charlie Hebdo attack)
Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump commented on the terrorist attack that took place in Paris, France on 13 November, 2015, alluding to whether or not the casualties would have been as high if some of the concert goers were carrying firearms. The Washington Post reported a statement made by Trump at his rally in Texas less than 24 hours after the massacre where he told his supporters “You can say what you want, but if they had guns — if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry — it would have been a much, much different situation.” The majority of those killed in the coordinated terrorist attacks were attending an Eagles of Death Metal concert in the Bataclan theatre. Eighty-nine people lost their lives that night. Trump’s outlandish assertion that one or two gun-owners in the crowd could have somehow prevented a mass casualty in this unforeseen onslaught despite the terrorist’ military training, high power assault rifles, TATP suicide belts and well-coordinated plan is unrealistic.
While many Americans are deeply fearful of the next terrorist attack on US soil from a foreign combatant’s organization such as ISIL or Al Qaeda, statistically there is a much greater likelihood of being affected by gun violence at the hands of an American citizen.
The 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution grants the American people the “right to bear arms” but this “right” has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people in the US alone in 2015 either by murder, suicide or accidental death.
Any time a mother or father is forced to bury their child, it is a tragedy. That is not how the cycle of life is meant to work. What adds insult to injury is when that child or anyone else’s life is taken in a violent and horrific manner that could have been prevented if reasonable policy measures were enforced. More efficient and effective databases to regulate background checks may not save everyone, but it will save some. Not all airbags or seatbelts have saved victims of automotive accidents, but they have saved some. Putting aside all political divisiveness and self-interest, it is important to keep perspective and that perspective is striving to ensure that a few less families will have to identify their bullet-riddled loved one in a mortuary this year.