America's home-grown terrorism

America's home-grown terrorism

Glenn Tucker

Monday, August 26, 2019

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Within a 13-hour period at least 31 people were killed and a similar amount injured by two gunmen in two mass shootings in the US. One concern was that high-powered guns — AR-15s — continued to be the weapon of choice for these mass murderers. When asked to explain the difference between a wound created by an AR-15 and, say, a 9mm, on the body, an Arizona trauma surgeon put it this way: “The AR-15 is like a grenade went off in there. The 9mm looks like a bad knife wound.” For those who still do not understand but studied physics, let me put it this way. “A bullet with more energy can do more damage. Its total kinetic energy is equal to one half of the mass of the bullet times the velocity squared.”

When the shooting took place at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, a radiologist described what the bullet did to a child who was brought in for surgery: “It looked like an over ripe watermelon was smashed by a sledgehammer. The trauma surgeon searched for something to work on, but nothing could be put together. We could not save the child.”

It's a fairly small bullet that leaves the gun, but it is three times the speed of a handgun and damages large amounts of neighbouring tissue before creating an exit wound the size of a Julie mango. A handgun may require one surgery. This weapon requires three to 10 surgeries, if the victim is lucky.

To understand America's love affair with the gun is to know its history. At first, it was an agricultural society. Hunting was a profession for some and a source of food for others. Shooting skills became a prerequisite for survival. Before the American Revolution there wasn't the budget, manpower, or the stomach for a full-time army. Security was left to the armed citizen soldier. Today, with five per cent of the world's population, Americans own 46 per cent of the entire global stock of the 857-million civilian firearms. These 393-million guns owned by civilians is 100 times as many as the US military, and nearly 400 times as many as law enforcement.

Between 2012 and 2017, US civilians bought 135 million guns, two million more than the combined stockpile of all the world's armed forces. The right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, but is all this still necessary?

America is no longer a 19th century frontier taming the wild west. It has the largest and most modern army in the world. It also has the most sophisticated national security system.

Up to recently the number of mass shootings worldwide was 255. The number carried out in the US was 249. The National Rifle Association (NRA), which has a commercial interest in maintaining the status quo, insists that the gun is not the problem. That organisation cites mental health issues as the main problem. Its strategy to maintain influence is to make campaign “contributions” and other gifts to certain politicians and, in so doing , buy their support.

In 2016, the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton made it clear that, as president, she would rein in the NRA. Her party had made some headway in the previous eight years they were in power. Donald Trump's words to a cheering NRA convention, sums up his position: “The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end.”

The NRA had their man. They made US$21 million available to Trump — US$9.6 million in pro-Trump ads and materials and another $12 million on destructive material against Hillary Clinton. But it didn't stop there. Between US$2.2 million and US$6.3 million was spent on Republican senators to ensure they won their seats. The total is far and away the largest sum ever spent by the NRA on an election campaign. But it paid off!

In 2017, with a sympathetic Congress and an Administration safely in its back pocket, its members were not resting on their laurels. The amount they spent on 'lobbying' for the first nine months was more that they have ever spent for an entire year.

When it was announced that President Trump would be making a statement on the shootings I wrote down how I expected the speech to go:

(1) regrets, thoughts and prayers;

(2) blame social media;

(3) blame some new people or thing; and

(4) blame mental health.

Prayers, yes. Social media, yes. Then there was a new one: video games. And the standard one, mental health issues.

How did I do? Did I mention that every country has mental health issues and video games, but only America has this level of gun violence. These shooters had no history of mental illness. Repeated efforts to ban the importation of high-powered weapons for use by ordinary citizens have been blocked by the NRA-paid Republicans who have the majority in the Senate.

The overwhelming majority of thinking Americans are blaming Trump for his racist rhetoric in fuelling hate by white nationalists, as well as his hypocrisy in making hollow promises to “do something” mass shooting after mass shooting.

There are 38,000 Americans dying by the gun each year. Trump and Republicans control the Senate and the presidency. The NRA controls them. There will be more shootings. And the shooters will not be immigrants. They will continue to be white, blue-eyed, home-grown Americans.

Glenn Tucker, MBA, is an educator and a sociologist. Send comments to the Observer or

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