The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

TIME TO END GUN MADNESS

- 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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