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15 November, 2017 00:00 00 AM

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Of Americans’ deadly love affair with guns

Incidentally, as debate over gun control gets heated, the sale of firearms shoots up. It is because the people perceive they will not be able to buy guns in the near future
Tanbir Uddin Arman
Of Americans’ deadly love affair with guns

Gun violence in the US has reached a horrifying level so much so that you will see it get recorded virtually every day if you visit Gun Violence Archive (GVA). Data compiled by the GVA reveal a shocking human toll: there is a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter – every nine out of 10 days on average.

The deadliest ever took place just a couple days ago when a gunman, Stephen Craig Paddock, opened fire on a music festival crowd from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, leaving at least 59 people dead and countless more injured.

In another major incident in June last year, 53 people were killed by a shooter, apparently inspired by Islamic State, at an Orlando gay nightclub.

It is projected that at the current rate, 339,000 people will die by guns by the early 2020s, which is roughly equivalent to the current population of Florida’s Tampa. Ironically, despite a worrying spike in shooting deaths, gun control is neither acceptable nor desirable to the arms-loving Americans.

Barack Obama during his presidency tried to hammer home the point again and again that other developed countries — such as the UK, Australia and Canada – do not have gun violence issues that the US does. "We're the only country in the world where this happens, and it happens once a week," a visibly frustrated Obama said after a 2015 school shooting in Oregon.

In the UK, a person needs to get a certificate and proves he or she has a “good” reason to own a rifle or shotgun while a convict is not allowed to touch a gun for five years. Also, any firearm that has a barrel less than 30cm in length is banned outright.

In Canada, one applying for a mandatory licence must take a training course, notify next-of-kin, have several references, and pass a rigorous background check apart from being on a 60-day waiting period. The results? A major drop in suicides and homicides. There are only 0.07 and 0.5 gun homicides per every 100,000 people in the UK and Canada respectively, whereas nearly four out of the same number of people are killed in the US, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Australia is a rare nation with a significant shift towards additional gun control measures. Following a 1996 shooting spree that left 35 Australians dead at the Port Arthur tourist spot in Tasmania, the Conservative-led government overhauled its gun laws and instituted a gun-buyback programme, where some 650,000 weapons were voluntarily handed in for $360m.

Japan presents yet another model that has all but eradicated gun crimes. If a Japanese citizen wishes to buy a gun, he or she must undergo an exhaustive application process involving several exams including passing a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95 per cent. Moreover, touching guns without or prior to obtaining licence may even result in 10 years in prison.

The country’s law enforcement agencies rarely make use of firearms, putting much greater emphasis on judo, and the masses do not view gun ownership as a civil liberty either. In other words, there is no clamour in the Japanese society for gun regulations to be relaxed, a lot of which stems from its post-war sentiment of pacifism.

For the Americans, who are apparently so obsessed with guns, the aforementioned measures may seem utterly bizarre as over six in every 10 Americans think having a gun at their home makes it a safer place, including 81 per cent of Republicans.

The US has pretty unique legal provisions for gun rights. The Second Amendment to its constitution itself protects the people’s right to carry arms while the federal law says almost anyone can buy a gun, provided they are of age, the gun is not an assault rifle or machine gun, and they are not a felon, fugitive or non-citizen.

Incidentally, as  debate over gun control gets heated, the sale of firearms shoots up. It is because the people perceive they will not be able to buy guns in the near future that they buy them now. There is also a fallacy of one-sided argument cerntring the debate. There has never been even a token opposition to such juggernaut gun rights lobbyists as National Rifle Association (NRA) and Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), which influence Congress members on arms policy in exchange for a significant amount of money from weapon industries in the form of donations, contributions, and fundraising assistance.

That's not all. NRA reportedly uses its influence to gut research organisations' capacity to conduct research on the impact of firearms on human casualty, deliberately making it harder to conduct any scientific research.

Obama hoped to be a transformational president whose era nonetheless ended not with a bang, but with a whimper as his repeated calls for gun control fell on deaf ears. Now, as the Donald Trump era has already dawned, anti-arms activists with their passionate pleas for arms control will be like a lone voice in the wilderness. President Trump during his electioneering had vowed to bin his predecessor’s executive actions to streamline the gun purchase background check system and abolish gun-free zones at schools and on military bases.

Right after Trump’s victory in the polls, the SAF, supporters of which rallied to the nth degree to elect a pro-gun president, too posted images on social media stating: “Make the Second Amendment great again.”

In fact, making the Second Amendment great will be of no avail in what Trump says making America great again. The sooner the Americans as a nation realise this, the better it is for them; or else they will continue to die such horrible deaths on their own land, no matter how many travel alerts Washington issues for its citizens visiting other.

The writer is a journalist. He can be reached at: tanbirarman30@gmail.com

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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