Gun Violence is a Fact of Life in America

Viewpoint by Somar Wijayadasa*

NEW YORK (IDN) — Once again, for the umpteenth time, another massacre of young school children shocked the United States of America (US), and the heart-breaking news reverberated across the world.

On Tuesday (5/24) in a deadly rampage, an 18-year-old shooter slaughtered 19 children and two teachers at the Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas—marking the 30th shooting at a K-12 school in just the first five months of this year.

It was also the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut when a 19-year-old man mowed down 20 little first-graders and 6 teachers.

In the latest school shooting in Texas, it is unconscionable that while the mass murderer was inside the classroom, as many as 19 officers were inside the school for more than 45 minutes before the suspect was killed.

Just 10 days before this senseless school massacre, a gunman opened fire at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and fatally shot 10 people, most of them African American.

The general public—especially politicians who want to escape enforcing gun regulation—views “mass shooters as people who are totally crazy, insane” but that is not the case according to Mark Follman, the national editor of Mother Jones.

Follman says, the role of mental health is widely misunderstood: There’s “a very rational thought process” that goes into planning and carrying out mass shootings.

Mass shootings are an American phenomenon

The Gun Violence Archive (GVA) defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people were shot or killed, excluding the shooter. According to GVA, as of May 24, 2022, there have been 17,905 gun violence deaths due to all causes (7595 homicides/murders/etc., and 9504 suicides).

Also, as per GVA, in the first 145 days of this year (2022), the United States has already experienced 213 mass shootings including the 27 school shootings with injuries or deaths. That averages to about 10 a week—with a similar track record in 2021 with 693 mass shootings.

According to reliable records, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide.

In those episodes, 438 people were shot, 138 of whom were killed.

Here are a few major incidents:

Columbine High School, Colorado,1999: Two students killed 12 of their peers and a teacher.

Red Lake High School, Minnesota, 2005: A 16-year-old student killed 5 students, a teacher, and a security guard.

Virginia Tech, Virginia, 2007: A 23-year-old student killed 32 people.

Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut, 2012: A 19-year-old man killed 20 first graders and six teachers.

Umpqua Community College, Oregon, 2015: A man killed 9 people and wounded nine others.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida, 2018: A 20-year-old man killed 14 students and three staff members.

Santa Fe High School, Texas, 2018: A 17-year-old killed 10 students.

The whole world is baffled why the world’s most powerful nation can’t keep its school children safe at their schools. It is evident that gun violence is a fact of life in America.

Gun control legislation—”What are we doing?”

In December 2012, following the Sandy school murders, the Stamford Advocate in a compelling Editorial “Gun violence is our choice” queried, “when are we, as a decent people, going to stop accepting death on a massive scale from guns as an unavoidable fact of life?” The editor declared, “It is time that we stand up and say it is time for that to change”.

Despite hundreds of mass shootings in the US every year, and in spite of politicians’ crocodile tears, the US Congress has repeatedly failed to pass major gun-control legislation.

Saying “This only happens in this country and nowhere else,” an enraged US Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) asked, “What are we doing?”.

Lambasting his colleagues over inaction on gun control, Murphy begged his colleagues to pass substantial gun violence legislation and asked his colleagues why they even bother running for office if they’re going to stand by and do nothing.

A grieving President Joe Biden queried “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? Why are we willing to live with this carnage?

In the years since Columbine and Sandy Hook school murders, Congress has attempted to change US gun policies but has failed due to objections from Republicans and the influence of outside groups such as the NRA.

Last year, the House passed two bills to expand federally required background checks on firearms purchases, and also to close a loophole for private and online sales. Both languished in the 50-50 Senate due to a lack of Republican votes to clear a 60-vote filibuster hurdle.

As I pointed out in a letter to the Editor, “People have the power to make changes” published in the Stamford Advocate on 12/21/12, I wish to reiterate—if our politicians are complicit, and do not want to ban the sale of these deadly weapons, we should use our constitutional right to vote them out. Our vote is the easy answer to this menace.

It’s no wonder what Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly—whose wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was critically wounded after being shot in the head in 2011—had to say, “It’s f**king nuts to do nothing about this”.

*The writer is a former Representative of UNESCO and UNAIDS at the United Nations, is a Stamford resident, a JP and a former member of the Mayor’s Multi-Cultural Council. [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 May 2022]

Photo source: Charleston City Paper

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