The Sunday Mail (Queensland)


- CARO­LINE MAR­CUS twit­ter: @car­o­line­mar­cus

WHAT will it take for the United States to over­haul its de­ranged gun laws?

The is­sue of gun con­trol is again in the crosshairs af­ter the shoot­ing death of a re­porter and cam­era­man on-air by a dis­grun­tled for­mer col­league in Vir­ginia on Wed­nes­day.

To add to the ut­ter sense­less­ness of it all, the un­hinged gun­man Vester Lee Flana­gan cap­tured the ex­e­cu­tion on a body cam­era, post­ing his dis­turb­ing snuff video on so­cial media to max­imise the ex­po­sure to his sick crime.

The latest tragedy oc­curred the same week James Holmes, the gun­man be­hind the 2012 Colorado cin­ema shoot­ing, was handed down 12 con­sec­u­tive life sen­tences for killing a dozen peo­ple as they watched the Bat­man movie The Dark Knight Rises.

High schools, kinder­gartens, univer­si­ties, movie the­atres, churches and now live tele­vi­sion have all pro­vided the back­drop for mass shoot­ings in the US in re­cent years, each one shock­ing in its own right for both cal­lous­ness and pre­sentabil­ity.

It makes you want to grab our Western al­lies by the shoul­ders and shake some sense into them.

Yet the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion’s sup­port­ers con­tinue to ar­gue it’s not guns that kill, but peo- ple. This is mis­lead­ing for the fact not only do firearms have the po­ten­tial to more easily in­flict greater harm than other weapons or un­armed of­fend­ers, but re­search shows the wide­spread avail­abil­ity of guns in the United States is linked to the high num­ber of firearm-re­lated homi­cides.

Since the 2012 Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School mas­sacre in which gun­man Adam Lanza killed 20 chil­dren, six adult staff mem­bers and him­self, there have been al­most 900 mass shoot­ings in the US, with 1148 peo­ple killed and thou­sands more se­ri­ously wounded, ac­cord­ing to the crowd­sourced data­base Mass Shoot­ing Tracker.

Mass shoot­ings, while more likely to make world head­lines, make up a mi­nus­cule pro­por­tion of the more than 32,000 gun-re­lated homi­cides a year in the US.

Com­pare that to Aus­tralia, where since for­mer prime min­is­ter John Howard’s Port Arthur-moti- vated gun re­forms firearm-re­lated homi­cides have dwin­dled.

Prior to the 1996 mas­sacre, an av­er­age 617 Aus­tralians were killed each year. In the seven years fol­low­ing the re­forms and large-scale gun buy­back, that an­nual av­er­age halved.

There are 1.4 firearm homi­cides per mil­lion Aus­tralians, com­pared to a ter­ri­fy­ing 29.7 for ev­ery mil­lion in the US, ac­cord­ing to 2012 fig­ures. This plainly has to do with the fact that while Amer­i­cans com­prise just 4.4 per cent of the global pop­u­la­tion, they boast the high­est gun own­er­ship, pos­sess­ing 42 per cent of all civil­ian-owned guns, or vir­tu­ally one gun per per­son.

The other ra­tio­nale Amer­i­can gun lob­by­ists love to trot out is the right to bear arms is en­shrined in the US Con­sti­tu­tion.

But surely there has to come a point when the right to feel safe in­no­cently go­ing to school, to work, or go­ing about your ev­ery­day busi­ness su­per­sedes some an­ti­quated priv­i­lege to gun own­er­ship.

I’d say this point was sur­passed more than a decade ago, at the very latest, at the time of the 1999 Columbine mas­sacre in which two so­cial out­casts shot dead 13 peo­ple and wounded 20 oth­ers at their high school.

Then, of course, is the non­sensi- cal ar­gu­ment that guns ac­tu­ally save lives.

Last month, the NRA had the gall to at­tack Aus­tralia for our “Or­wellian” gun laws, in an ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled “Aus­tralia: There Will Be Blood” in the as­so­ci­a­tion mag­a­zine.

“Those guns that were still granted le­gal tol­er­a­tion (af­ter the buy­back) had to be stored, locked and un­loaded, mean­ing that they would be of lim­ited use in the case of a home in­va­sion,” the ar­ti­cle read.

“The Aus­tralian peo­ple paid a mas­sive price in lib­erty. Their re-

ward? At best, an un­ex­am­ined res­o­lu­tion that things were some­how bet­ter now.”

It would al­most be funny if it wasn’t so sad. The latest shoot­ing of re­porter Ali­son Parker, cam­era­man Adam Ward and their in­ter­vie­wee Vicki Gard­ner (who sur­vived) also raises the is­sue of ca­reer vic­tim­hood.

Ac­counts by those who worked with Flana­gan, who went by the on­air name Bryce Wil­liams, paint a pic­ture of a man de­ter­mined to shout wolf, de­spite an over­whelm­ing amount of ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing he was the very op­po­site of a vic­tim.

Flana­gan re­peat­edly ac­cused col­leagues of ho­mo­pho­bia and racism, yet doc­u­ments filed in con­nec­tion with a racial dis­crim­i­na­tion suit he took against the Vir­ginia TV sta­tion WDBJ in 2014 re­vealed col­leagues felt “threat­ened or un­com­fort­able” around him.

In the same law­suit, he bizarrely tried to claim the pres­ence of a wa­ter­melon in the news­room was some­how proof of ha­rass­ment.

Need­less to say, the case was dis­missed. Flana­gan’s sta­tion boss de­scribes him as a “dif­fi­cult” per­son to work with and dis­missed his fi­nal ac- cu­sa­tions – Twit­ter posts claim­ing Parker made a “racist” com­ment and Ward had taken him to HR – as “fab­ri­cated”.

In a 23-page man­i­festo faxed to a US tele­vi­sion sta­tion af­ter the mur­ders, Flana­gan even blamed the rampage on the shoot­ing of nine black church­go­ers by a white gun­man in Charlestow­n in June.

A shoot­ing to avenge another shoot­ing. It’s time the mad­ness ends.

 ??  ?? FA­TAL MO­MENT: Vester Flana­gan aims a gun at tele­vi­sion re­porter Ali­son Parker.
FA­TAL MO­MENT: Vester Flana­gan aims a gun at tele­vi­sion re­porter Ali­son Parker.
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