The heartbreaking stupidity of America’s gun laws

Another year, another church. Another month, another mass killing. Another day, another political shrug about gun massacres across the United States.

There is still some shock left in this uniquely American series of mass killings. And with that shock, maybe a small glimmer of hope that the silent majority of Americans might demand something more than prayers from their lawmakers.
Prayers, sadly, did not save 26 churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Just as they didn’t save nine lives at the bible study group in Charleston, South Carolina, two years ago.
There’s still some shock left from the faces of the Texas death toll, which included a pregnant woman, a five-year-old child, and the pastor’s teenage daughter. But there was also shock at the toll inside Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, which included the pastor himself. And we have yet to process the shock of the carnage in Las Vegas, that left 58 country music fans dead just last month.
There’s also some shock left from the pathetic excuses for inaction that tumble out at times like this. This isn’t just a failure of leadership at the very top: members of Congress and statehouses on both sides of the aisle and across the country have proved themselves to be delusional cowards. Either they act like nothing can be done to stop gun violence, or they pretend like guns make America safer. Then there’s the special podium of delusional cowardice occupied by United States President Donald Trump. “I think that mental health is your problem here,” he told reporters at a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. “This was a very – based on preliminary reports – very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn’t a guns situation.” Let us all sigh for the souls whom we have yet to lose, in part because of this stupidity. Of course these are mental health issues. Of course we need to treat mental health like any other health challenge. Of course other countries have the same issues.
But other countries are not awash with guns. So it’s that much harder for people suffering from mental health issues to gun down large numbers of their fellow citizens in church, or at school, or at an open-air concert. Or take their own lives, which is by far the bigger killer with guns.
“Fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction,” continued Trump, speaking without any factual basis, “otherwise it would have been – as bad as it was, it would have been much worse. But this is a mental health problem at the highest level.” Yes, this is a mental health problem at the highest level. Just not the one you think it is, Mr President.
According to the local sheriff, the gunman was only confronted by an armed civilian once he emerged from the church, after the massacre was completed. The mass murderer died by killing himself. So along with the victims, let’s please bury once and for all the storyline pushed so hard by the National Rifle Association, and echoed by Donald Trump. The only thing that stopped the bad guy with a gun was the bad guy with his own gun. The good guys were shot dead in their church pews. On the bleak day after the Texas shooting, there is a determined effort to understand the shooter’s motives, as if that explanation could mitigate future disasters or make sense of the last one. This has not been the case of Las Vegas, where the local sheriff now suggests the shooter was depressed after losing money.
It is too easy to compare the political reaction to Sutherland Springs with the reaction to last week’s Daesh-inspired mass killing in New York. The truth is they are both appalling and our lawmakers and leaders have the capacity to deal with both kinds of murders.
But here’s how demented our gun debate has become: for all the fear and loathing of potential terrorists, it is still perfectly legal for people on the terrorist watch-list to buy as many guns as they want in the US. We won’t let them board a plane, of course. But we will let them purchase an assault rifle like the Ruger AR-15, a semi-automatic modelled on the standard military issue.
Trump is right. This is a mental health problem at the highest level, and America’s leaders need urgent treatment. In the meantime, let us pray for them to come to their senses as soon as they can.

Source : Gulf News


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