The Most Intractable Problem of the USA

Published on Saturday, March 24, 2018

The President weeps after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting

A 52 years old stay-at-home mother in a very low-crime peaceful town called Newtown in Connecticut is a gun-enthusiast! She loves guns and shooting! She has at least 5 guns at home. She also has a mentally handicapped son, 20 years of age. One day, that mentally sick young adult man gets 3 of his mother's guns, kills her (his mother) at home, and then drives to an elementary school to shoot children. He kills 20 lovely little children, age range just 6-7, and 6 adults, including the school's principal. After that he shoots himself to death.

How does the country handle this tragedy? The President of the USA, the smart, wise and cool Barack Obama, weeps, and tries to console the families of the victims. He is clearly sad; and if it were in his power, he probably would have put an end to this kind of tragedies in the country. However, he does not have that power. The legislative branch of the US government, the Congress, has too many members that are either too much of gun-crazy or have sold their conscience to the gun-crazy voters and to the gun makers and traders that financially supported their election campaigns.

The above was the story of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012.

This linked article provides a list of mass shootings in the USA over the years of 2007 through 2017:

The last one in this reverse chronological list was in April 2007, and it was at a major university where a 23 years old student massacred 28 students and 4 professors. The mentally sick shooter had bought two semi-automatic pistols and the bullets legally. The student victims included many doctoral level students. That massacre led to some 'strengthening' of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) at the state and federal levels. The country was not ready to trash the instant criminal background check, which is clearly for the ease of gun trading than for ensuring gun safety in the country.

Before the Virginia Tech Massacre, the most remarkable mass shooting at a school in the USA was the Columbine High School Massacre in April 1999. There two students killed 12 students and a teacher. The shooters had bought 4 guns themselves and had borrowed 4 from friends! The massacre led to some worthless window-dressing state and federal gun-control legislations.

Both intended and accidental deaths by too many guns in the country have been a part and parcel of life in the USA. It is not possible to discuss many of them in a short article. Let us look at two more recent mass shootings.

On October 1, 2017, a 64 years old sociopath and a high-stakes gambler fired more than 1,100 rounds of bullets from a high-rise hotel room in Las Vegas into an outdoor concert. He killed 58 people and injured more than 500 people. In the week preceding the shooting spree, the shooter brought in five suitcases containing guns and bullets to his hotel room. The stockpile in his room included 25 high-powered guns.

What was the immediate reaction of the most un-presidential President of the USA, Donald Trump, to this horrible episode of senseless mass murder? He was proud to be an American for the professionalism of the hospital staff that treated the injured, and for the bravery of the survivors that helped other fellow concert-attendees during the shooting. More than four months later and after another horrible episode of mass shooting, he crafted a regulation that would ban the so-called 'bump-stocks', which involves modifying a semi-automatic gun by the owner to make it like an automatic weapon that would fire faster.

On February 14, 2018, a 19 years old man went on a shooting spree at the Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. He killed 14 students, a teacher and 2 staff members, and injured 17 others, mostly students. He had bought his killer high-powered rifle legally a year back.

What was President Donald Trump's immediate reaction? He went to the hospital to pay his respect and gratitude to the medical professionals for their life-saving assistance to the injured. He had no word of consolation for the families and friends of the victims.

At the Florida state level, the legislature and the governor passed a limited gun-control law that includes the following: raising the age limit for buying rifles to 21, background checks, waiting period, banning bump-stocks and barring some mentally sick and violent people from buying guns. It also included arming some teachers and hiring of school police.

The most horrifying proposal of arming teachers did not come just from the government of Florida. President Trump endorsed it. The proposal also came from a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, who was a university professor before he became a politician. Of course, the Speaker of the House of Representatives is third in the power hierarchy of the US government. The head of the gun-right and gun-proliferation group, the National Rifle Association, of course, have been uttering the 'wise' words of 'the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun', for a long time.

But people with common sense and honesty certainly can see that a good guy with a gun is no guarantee for stopping a bad guy with a gun. As the following video shows, an armed teacher's biggest fear would be "missing the 'bad guy' and hitting a student." In a crowd comprising mostly students, the armed teacher/guard is more likely to kill innocent students than the would-be killer. Of course, the whole idea of making the schools warzones is sickening.

Aside from mass shootings, the USA is also the capital of individual intended and accidental killings by guns. For example, the city of Chicago had 650 murders in 2017. Here are two very recent examples that show how irresponsible people in the USA can be with the ownership of guns: 1) a 9 years old boy kills his 13 years old sister over video game, 2) A 4 years old boy shoots a 7 months old baby.

Clearly, the idea of self-defense by owning guns, as per the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, is ludicrous. In fact, it is utterly foolish to think that civilians can protect themselves by owning guns. The criminal who wants to kill has his/her finger at the trigger; and a citizen living a life can never be as ready as the criminal to shoot back.

Citizens needing guns to protect themselves cannot be a law in a civilized nation. In a civilized nation, good laws and law enforcements keep crime level low and ordinary citizens protected against crimes, including murder. In fact, all developed nations, including Germany, the UK and Japan, have common sense laws that keep gun-homicide rates there much lower than in the USA.

The idea of owning guns as a right (the Second Amendment of the US Constitution) is clearly an insanity in the USA. Gun ownership should not be a right; it should be a privilege that must be earned and maintained through passing serious evaluations of mental health, sense of responsibility and need. Of course, the congressional leaders and the president would need to have that common sense in order for the USA to have the level of gun safety that much of the developed world has. That common sense leadership is clearly not in the horizon in the USA.

==================================== Sukhamaya (Sam) Bain is a secular humanist who is against any kind of injustice, hatred or atrocity on any kind of humans. With a PhD in Chemistry, he is a scientific professional. However, he occasionally writes on sociopolitical issues, as he feels strongly that societal justice is vital for the well-being of mankind. This article is dedicated to the young Americans that have organized the March for Our Lives movement for gun-control in the USA.

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