Jolted to Re­al­ity

The New­town tragedy re-sparked the con­tro­ver­sial gun con­trol de­bate in the United States. How­ever, it re­mains un­cer­tain whether the U.S will be able to in­tro­duce con­crete and strin­gent mea­sures to ac­tu­ally ad­dress the prob­lem, this time around.

Southasia - - International gun control - By Ayla Joseph Ayla Joseph is a free­lance jour­nal­ist based in New York, USA.

The United States once again finds it­self em­broiled in a con­tro­ver­sial gun con­trol de­bate fol­low­ing the re­cent mass shoot­ing at the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School in New­town, Con­necti­cut.

The sole shooter, Adam Lanza, 20, en­tered the school premises in the morn­ing car­ry­ing three guns, reg­is­tered in his mother’s name. By law, the guns were ob­tained legally. The shooter then pro­ceeded to open fire on a class of first graders. First re­spon­ders later con­firmed that the class of 20 chil­dren was shot mul­ti­ple times be­fore the shooter ex­ited the class­room and shot him­self. In ad­di­tion to the chil­dren, 7 adults were also gunned down. Though me­dia re­ports orig­i­nally floated the pos­si­bil­ity of mul­ti­ple shoot­ers spread around the school cam­pus, law en­force­ment of­fi­cers later con­firmed that Lanza was re­stricted to one area of the school, and used only a semi-au­to­matic ri­fle to con­duct what has been termed as “Amer­ica’s most hor­rific mass shoot­ing.”

In the U.S., guns may be bought and reg­is­tered legally, how­ever, their use is de­bat­able. While pur­chasers have to un­dergo writ­ten tests, sub­mit fin­ger­prints, un­dergo back­ground checks and sub­mit let­ters of ref­er­ence, un­like in Ja­pan, the United States does not rig­or­ously con­duct med­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions be­fore clear­ing a cit­i­zen to pur­chase a gun. Again, this varies state to state. Gun con­trol re­mains a con­tro­ver­sial de­bate and some ar­gue that since Pres­i­dent Obama will not be seek­ing re-elec­tion, his fresh man­date will al­low him to push cer­tain poli­cies more ag­gres­sively.

Whether it was an un­pro­voked at­tack on chil­dren that sent chills through­out civil so­ci­ety in Amer­ica or whether this was sim­ply the tip of the ice­berg when it comes to gun con­trol, the de­bate has erupted in full force. It is un­cer­tain, though, whether any con­crete mea­sures in fa­vor of gun con­trol will take place.

In 1994, Pres­i­dent Clin­ton man­aged to in­tro­duce gun con­trol laws per­tain­ing to cer­tain semi-au­to­matic ri­fles. Though no sweep­ing leg­is­la­tion by any chance, the move did, how­ever, deal a strong blow to the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion (NRA), the strong­est and most in­flu­en­tial gun lobby group in Amer­ica. It was

per­haps due to con­se­quent dis­con­tent that the NRA voted heav­ily in fa­vor of a Repub­li­can-run House and Se­nate. The ban lasted for 10 years, ex­pir­ing in 2004 and since then has had gun con­trol lob­by­ists try­ing their ut­most to get it re­in­stated.

Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den re­cently talked about the need to mon­i­tor arms sell­ing shows, in­tro­duce more strin­gent mea­sures to ob­tain li­censes for guns and form spe­cial fed­eral units to track arms deal­er­ship. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Fed­eral Law, U.S ci­ti­zens are not pro­hib­ited from ob­tain­ing hand­guns for self-de­fense pur­poses. Re­al­ity, how­ever, dic­tates oth­er­wise and the rise in mass shoot­ings over the past five years is il­lus­tra­tive of that fact. In 2011, Rep. Gabrielle Gif­fords was shot in Ari­zona and ear­lier this year a mass shoot­ing oc­curred at the pre­miere of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado as well as at a Sikh tem­ple in Wis­con­sin. Pre­vi­ous in­ci­dents in­clude the Fort Hood shoot­ing (2009), the Vir­ginia Tech mas­sacre (2007) and the Columbine High School shoot­ing (1999).

Fol­low­ing the New­town shoot­ing, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a lead­ing gun con­trol ad­vo­cate, pub­licly an­nounced, “It is time to pass an en­force­able and ef­fec­tive as­sault weapons ban.” Seiz­ing the op­por­tu­nity, Democrats on Capi­tol Hill were quick to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to ban the weapons in late De­cem­ber. How­ever, with a Repub­li­can-dom­i­nated Congress and the NRA’s in­creas­ing in­flu­ence, it is highly un­likely that any such move will suc­ceed.

Pub­lic opin­ion does not fa­vor a com­plete ban on as­sault ri­fles. In fact, the NRA re­ports a surge of 100,000 sup­port­ers fol­low­ing the New­town shoot­ing. The most trou­ble­some in­ci­dent im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the shoot­ing oc­curred in Utah, when a sixth grader was caught with a gun while in school. Speak­ing to ad­min­is­tra­tors, the boy and his par­ents ar­gued that the child needed to be armed to de­fend him­self, in case of a sim­i­lar as­sault like in New­town.

Of­fi­cial statis­tics re­veal that as crime de­creased, so did the pub­lic in­ter­est in gun con­trol laws; in 1990, 78 per­cent fa­vored stricter gun laws com­pared to only 44 per­cent be­tween 2010 and 2012. How­ever, a Gallup poll taken a week af­ter the New­town shoot­ing found that 58 per­cent of Amer­i­cans wanted gun laws to be stricter, as op­posed to the 44 per­cent who said the same when polled a few months ear­lier.

Gun con­trol laws have al­ways been a bone of con­tention in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, of­ten lead­ing to noth­ing more than a dead­lock and break­down in talks be­tween the Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can par­ties. More than likely, en­hanced se­cu­rity mea­sures will be in­stalled to mon­i­tor ac­tiv­i­ties in pub­lic places but the ban on gun deal­er­ships will not oc­cur. As a re­sult, fierce pub­lic opin­ion will grad­u­ally di­min­ish and the prob­lem will re­main un­ad­dressed till an­other mass shoot­ing in­ci­dent oc­curs and civil so­ci­ety ac­ti­vates it­self mo­men­tar­ily, again.

U.S MASS SHOOT­ING TIME­LINE

Austin, Texas Charles Whit­man kills 16 peo­ple and wounds 31 while open­ing fire from the clock tower at the

Univer­sity of Texas.

46

Au­gust 1, 1966

SOUTHA­SIA

JAN­UARY 2013

San Ysidro, Cal­i­for­nia

James Oliver Hu­berty, an un­em­ployed se­cu­rity guard, en­ters a McDon­ald’s restau­rant

and kills 21 peo­ple

July 12, 1976

Fuller­ton, Cal­i­for­nia

July 18, 1984 Ed­ward Charles All­away, a li­brar­ian at the Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity, shoots seven

em­ploy­ees

Jack­sonville, Florida James Ed­ward Pough opens fire in a Gen­eral Mo­tors Ac­cep­tance Corp. of­fice, killing 10 peo­ple

and wound­ing four

Au­gust 20, 1986

Ed­mond, Ok­la­homa

En­ter­ing a post of­fice, Pat Sher­rill shot 14 peo­ple dead

be­fore com­mit­ting sui­cide.

June 18, 1990

Oc­to­ber 16, 1991

Killeen, Texas Ge­orge Hen­nard fires at 23 peo­ple at a Luby’s Cafe­te­ria

and wounds 20 oth­ers

Lit­tle­ton, Colorado Eric Har­ris and Dy­lan Kle­bold, stu­dents

at the Columbine High School, open fire killing 12 class­mates, a teacher and wound­ing 26, be­fore killing them­selves in the li­brary.

April 20, 1999

Alabama Michael McLen­don kills 10 peo­ple

in­clud­ing his mother, four other rel­a­tives, and the Deputy Sher­iff’s wife and child, be­fore shoot­ing him­self.

April 16, 2007

Blacks­burg, Vir­ginia

Se­ung-Hui Cho shoots

32 peo­ple at the Vir­ginia Tech cam­pus.

March 10, 2009

Aurora, Colorado A gun­man re­leases a can­is­ter of gas and opens fire in a movie the­ater,

killing 12 peo­ple and in­jur­ing dozens, at the pre­miere of ‘The

Dark Knight Rises.’

Jan­uary 8, 2011

Tuc­son, Ari­zona

July 20, 2012 De­cem­ber 14, 2012

A gun­man shoots U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Gif­fords, killing six peo­ple and in­jur­ing 13 oth­ers, at a gro­cery store. Gif­fords sur­vives the at­tack.

New­town, Con­necti­cut

A sole gun­man kills 20 chil­dren and 6 teach­ers at the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School be­fore shoot­ing

him­self in the school cor­ri­dor.

SOUTHA­SIA

JAN­UARY 2013

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