As America grieves again...

Friday, August 09, 2019

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America is again in the throes of a bitter debate about gun control, sparked by the latest incidents of mass shootings in two states.

We, like many people across the world, looked on in shock as US media reported back-to-back shootings in El Paso, Texas on Saturday and Dayton, Ohio on Sunday, which together left 31 people dead and many more injured.

Both attacks were carried out by solitary white men armed with assault weapons which, based on US law in most states, anyone can acquire with relative ease.

With anger again mounting over an epidemic with which the US has been grappling for decades, pressure continued to build on the US Congress yesterday to pass tough gun control legislation after the mother of the El Paso gunman said she had called police out of concern he had a military-style weapon.

Not surprisingly, President Donald Trump and Republicans continued to avoid calls for action against mass shootings, simply because the gun lobby is a powerful voting bloc. Add to that the fact that the US will go into national elections next year and you can conclude that nothing of significance will come from the pressure, being applied by more than 200 US mayors, to pass gun control legislation which was already approved in February in the House of Representatives led by Democrats.

We note the numbers provided by the mayors in their open letter to the Congress stating that there have been more than 250 mass shootings in the United States this year.

“The tragic events in El Paso and Dayton this weekend are just the latest reminders that our nation can no longer wait for our federal government to take the actions necessary to prevent people who should not have access to firearms from being able to purchase them,” the mayors said in the letter.

We recall vividly, after the October 1, 2017 Las Vegas massacre in which 59 people were killed and 527 injured by a gunman armed with 23 firearms, including automatic weapons, 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 that Las Vegas bloodletting, there were 521 mass shootings in the United States.

The Las Vegas massacre — described as the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history — reignited the gun control debate.

But, as we stated in this space at the time, anyone who had expected the pro-gun lobby to bat an eyelid over the Las Vegas killings was wasting their time.

Readers will recall the gun lobby's 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 called for armed guards in every school and then blamed rap music, films and video games for firearm violence.

Every time there is a mass shooting in the United States, we in Jamaica hold our collective breath, hoping that none of the tens of thousands of Jamaicans who live, work and study in that country are among the victims.

We also share the pain of the American people because Jamaica and the US have enjoyed a close relationship over many decades.

Maybe this time the American people will find the stamina to sustain pressure on their legislators and bring about a change in the ludicrous policy of allowing over-the-counter access to assault weapons. Hopefully.


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