Com­ment: Trump left tongue-tied be­cause he is part of prob­lem

Irish Independent - - FRONT PAGE -

LAS Ve­gas is the city that per­haps most ob­vi­ously sym­bol­ises Amer­ica’s love af­fair with the world of en­ter­tain­ment. Its themed ho­tels, the res­i­den­cies of huge mu­sic stars, the casi­nos, the coloured il­lu­mi­na­tions: pulled to­gether they of­fer the chance to be thrilled and, if you’re lucky, get rich – all un­der the gaze of a thou­sand flu­o­res­cent light bulbs.

Now, how­ever, Ve­gas is fac­ing up to a much darker re­al­ity fol­low­ing the death of dozens of con­cert­go­ers at the hands of a mass mur­derer. The city that styles it­self as the en­ter­tain­ment cap­i­tal of the world is also now the holder of a much less wanted ti­tle as the site of Amer­ica’s dead­li­est shoot­ing.

In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the killings, seem­ingly per­pe­trated by a man shoot­ing into a crowd from his ho­tel room, thoughts turn to those who have died or been in­jured, and to the emer­gency ser­vices who have faced a scene of barely imag­in­able hor­ror.

How, we must all won­der, could a per­son in­flict such de­lib­er­ate pain and suf­fer­ing on peo­ple in­no­cently en­joy­ing a mu­si­cal show? It is a ques­tion we have asked in the UK this year too.

Don­ald Trump took to Twit­ter to of­fer his “warm con­do­lences” to the vic­tims, in a turn of phrase that was archetyp­i­cally odd. No­tably he made no im­me­di­ate com­ment about the iden­tity of the killer, said to be a lo­cal white man in his six­ties, who does not fit Trump’s vi­sion of a ter­ror­ist. There will be much de­bate about Trump’s re­ac­tion and about the ter­mi­nol­ogy used to de­scribe this tragedy.

Un­avoid­able too will be a re­open­ing of that grand old Amer­i­can pas­time: de­bat­ing whether gun laws are to blame for a mas­sacre.

The reg­u­la­tions in Nevada are lax, even by US stan­dards. Per­mits and li­cences are, it seems, an un­nec­es­sary bur­den for peo­ple who want to hang around town tooled up to the nines. State law makes no par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to au­to­matic weapons of the sort which ap­pear to have been used in this in­ci­dent, although fed­eral leg­is­la­tion pro­hibits the pos­ses­sion of fully au­to­matic weapons un­less they were reg­is­tered be­fore


In some ways though, the le­gal minu­tiae can be a dis­trac­tion. The ba­sic facts are that gun homi­cides in Amer­ica run into the thou­sands ev­ery year – more than 12,000 in 2015, up markedly on the pre­vi­ous year. The num­ber of sui­cides by shoot­ing is also stag­ger­ing: more than 22,000 in 2015. All in all, up to

100,000 peo­ple an­nu­ally will die or be in­jured as the re­sult of gun use. All four of the big­gest mass killings have hap­pened in the past decade.

True, Amer­ica’s an­nual firearm-re­lated death rate

(10.54 per 100,000 of pop­u­la­tion in 2014) com­pares well to some other coun­tries – if those other coun­tries hap­pen to be Brazil (21.2) or El Sal­vador (45.6 in 2011). But set against France (2.83 in

2012), the UK (0.23 in 2011) or Aus­tralia (0.93 in 2013), it would take an ide­o­logue or a mad­man to con­clude that US gun pol­icy is serv­ing the coun­try well.

Pres­i­dent Obama recog­nised the lu­nacy of Amer­ica’s at­ti­tude to guns. His rage at the deaths wit­nessed dur­ing his time in of­fice be­came ever more ap­par­ent with ev­ery high­pro­file shoot­ing; yet the rage was matched only by his in­abil­ity to bring about suf­fi­ciently sub­stan­tive change.

Obama’s suc­ces­sor is not cut from the same cloth; in­deed, he has ral­lied the gun lobby to his side, declar­ing in a speech to the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion (NRA) in April that his elec­tion had brought an “eight-year as­sault” on gun own­er­ship rights to a “crash­ing end”. He has reg­u­larly trot­ted out the line beloved of those who sup­port

the right to bear arms – that if more peo­ple car­ried weapons there would be more “good guys” around to head off the “bad guys” when they strike. It is in­tel­lec­tual gib­ber­ish of the high­est or­der.

The other favoured mantra of the NRA and its fans is that “it isn’t guns that kill, it’s hu­mans”, which would be laugh­able for its disin­gen­u­ous­ness if the con­se­quences weren’t so se­vere.

Trump will doubt­less tell the world that this in­ci­dent was the act of a lone wolf, per­haps a man who was men­tally un­sta­ble. Maybe we will find out that the killer had ac­cess to an un­law­ful weapon. We may find he had ide­o­log­i­cal mo­tives too.

Trump will find ex­cuses to avoid pin­ning re­spon­si­bil­ity on the US’s con­sti­tu­tional at­tach­ment to deadly firearms.

The truth that Trump will not face up to is that Amer­ica’s dis­as­trous re­la­tion­ship with guns is get­ting worse.

In­deed, he can­not face up to it; be­cause he, the en­ter­tainer-pres­i­dent, arch-ap­peaser of the gun lobby, is part of the prob­lem.

Peo­ple take cover at the Route 91 Har­vest coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val in Las Ve­gas, Nevada as the gun­man fires round af­ter round. Photo: David Becker/Getty Im­ages

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.