Monday, November 18, 2019

From America, the cacophony of guns

Oct 06. 2017
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By The Nation

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The US can’t seem to see the same sensible solution the rest of the world sees – holster your weapons

When it comes to mass killings, the question for America’s lawmakers and coast-to-coast armed “militia” is “When will enough be enough?” But this is a question that the Republican-dominated Congress and Senate refuse to consider. It’s a sad state of affairs for a country that has devoted so much time, energy, money and blood fighting terrorism abroad and trying to prevent it at home. Since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has invaded two sovereign foreign nations and spent nearly a trillion dollars on homeland security. Somehow the drive to maintain that security extends to everyone owning a gun.

Efforts have been made in the wake of last weekend’s Las Vegas outrage to blame recurring mass shootings in the US not on easy public access to firearms but on mental illness. It has been argued quite plausibly that the killings won’t stop until there are both better gun controls and broader mental healthcare programmes in place. But this is yet another diversionary tactic, just as the debate over gun ownership has previously wandered to violence depicted first on TV and in movies and then in video games like “Grand Theft Auto”. 

The shooter in Vegas – who as an ageing, white male with no criminal record or pertinent affiliations remains a baffling culprit – might well have suffered from some form of long-term mental debilitation. But don’t let that be the end of the story. He was also atrociously heavily armed. And the level of mental illness among the US populace, however it’s compared to that of other industrialised nations, cannot possibly account for America’s appalling homicide rate, which is dozens of times higher than found anywhere else.

The think-tank New America says terrorists have killed 74 people in the US since 9/11, and in that same period, gun homicides claimed more than 150,000 American lives. This hardly seems to matter to ordinary folks who, fearful in the midst of global and domestic instability, are willing to let their government invade their personal and private lives. This is the way it’s had to be since 9/11, goes the reasoning. 

And when another horrific mass shooting occurs that can’t be blamed on terrorists, shock is registered and then Americans move on. Any debate over gun control is silenced just as surely as Congress will soon revise the law to allow the easier purchase of gun silencers. The National Rifle Association will handsomely reward its supporters in Congress and the Senate and no one will give the issue another thought – until the next mass killing.

Meanwhile Americans are kept in fear with dire warnings from President Donald Trump and others about imminent threats from across the border and overseas. Trump gets plenty of political mileage out of painting foreign countries as violence-prone, especially Muslim-majority nations. If some US cities are also riddled with violence, he blames it on immigrant street gangs. He ignores – and even seems to condone – the violence committed in the US by homegrown terrorists, such as the white supremacists who took lives in a Charleston church and allegedly on a Charlottesville street.

In Trump’s America, the constitution is routinely abused – save for the cherished Second Amendment, added to allow for citizen militias at a time when there was no standing army and then reinterpreted to give every citizen the right to own a gun. In some states they can carry their guns openly. In every state they can amass military-grade automatic weapons.

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