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August 7, 2019

Merchants of death

Opinion

August 7, 2019

America may have 800 military bases in over 150 states of the world to police the globe. The mighty state may be equipped with more than 7000 nuclear arsenals to frighten its enemies. And the sole superpower may have occupied several parts of space to outwit its rivals.

But the two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio over the weekend clearly indicate that the most powerful ruling elite of the world, which wants to police the universe, is unable to police its own house. According to media reports, a total of 20 people were killed in El Paso, nestled in western Texas on the US-Mexico border, on Saturday as a white gun man opened fire on innocent people. Less than 13 hours later, another mass shooting took place in the city of Dayton, Ohio, leaving nine dead there and bringing the total injured from both shootings to at least 52. US federal authorities and local prosecutors charged a 21-year-old white man, Patrick Crusius, for the Texas attack. The suspect who is said to be from the town of Allen travelled 650 miles to commit the heinous crime. Authorities named the Dayton shooter as 24 year-old Connor Betts, who may also have been inspired by the xenophobic ideas and anti-immigrant rhetoric that critics believe are being promoted by US President Donald Trump and his tedious acolytes. Trump faced a barrage of criticism in the aftermath of the terrible attacks that devastated the lives of hundreds of people.

It is not the first time that gun terror has visited the US. In fact, this year alone from January 1 to August 4, 251 mass shootings have taken place in the US, according to data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Achieve, which tracks every mass shooting in the country. The NGO says there have been 33,028 total shooting incidents in 2019 as of Sunday, resulting in 8,734 deaths and 17,308 injuries. Some reports claim that more than 19000 people fall prey to gun violence every year. Many critics believe even this estimate is conservative in nature. For instance in a 2016 study, University of Alabama criminologist Adam Lankford found that nearly one-third of mass shootings worldwide occur in the United States. Overall, US gun deaths totaled more than 39,000 in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Brady United, another American NGO, every day 310 people are shot in the US and of those 100 lose their lives and 210 survive gun injuries. Such violence has a catastrophic impact on children and teens. Every day, 21 children and teens (aged 1-17) are shot in the US. Overall 113,108 people are shot in the country every year with 36,383 dying in gun violence alone and 76,725 injured by gun shots.

Some organisations offer a broader definition of gun violence, taking several forms of gun violence into account while collecting data on gun related deaths. According to the Giffords Law Center of the US, "Gun violence takes numerous forms, contributing to suicides, homicides, unintentional deaths, and law enforcement killings, as well as serious injuries." The centre claims on average 36,383 Americans are killed with guns each year; 22,274 are gun suicides (61 percent), 12,830 are gun homicides (35 percent), 496 are law enforcement shootings (1.4 percent), and 487 are unintentional shootings (1.3 percent). The centre asserts that on average, 100,000 Americans are wounded with guns each year, often with life-altering consequences. It is claimed that guns were used to kill more than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1990 and 2005.

Despite the loss of precious lives and fierce resistance from common Americans, the ruling elite of the country seems helpless against the power of the gun lobby that is not just playing havoc with the lives of Americans but other people around the world as well. One of the reasons why the elite failed in controlling gun violence is the influence of this lobby. The lobby invokes patriotic feelings by heaping eulogies on the gun culture. Almost all American presidents had to surrender before the power of these merchants of death. The entrenchment between gun violence and business is another reason that prevents American lawmakers from coming up with an adequate solution to end this menace of guns. The arms industry is believed to have been bankrolling both major parties and a number of congressmen. They are accused of lavishing money on candidates during elections and want dividends after their victory.

According to a 2017 report of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), an organization that represents gun owners, retailers, manufacturers and distributors, the gun industry was responsible for roughly $51.3 billion in both direct and indirect economic activity across the country. The employment of over 300,000 people is also affiliated with the industry. The gun violence has also led to the mushrooming of other associates businesses. For instance, the security alarm business alone brings in $25 billion a year and around 1.1 million security guards are employed in the US who naturally are linked to the gun industry in some ways. It is estimated that schools are spending $2.7 billion a year on security measures while the government spent $65 billion a year on domestic homeland security from 2002 to 2017.

But despite all this, the US is unable to tide over this phenomenon of gun violence and gun related fatalities. Instead of coming up with a mechanism to address this pressing issue, the ruling elite is scrambling around ways to topple the government in Venezuela and trigger another war in the Middle East. The US has spent over three trillion dollars on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that led to the killings of over two million people in a bid to control the two states. It squandered money and resources to dominate Syria. Washington was accused of fomenting chaos in Libya to topple a government it did not like. It succeeded in controlling some of these recalcitrant states but it is yet to rein in a bunch of gun lobbyists who are busy playing havoc with the lives of Americans.

It is time the most powerful state of the world turned its attention towards its own house. It needs to learn from New Zealand that put in place stringent laws aiming at gun control. Those who abominate the very idea of gun control are the biggest enemies of the US. They are the ones who are playing havoc with the lives of families. They are the ones who are responsible for traumatizing those who witness horrible gun attacks. It is they who should face severe restrictions and bans and not the people of Iran, Venezuela and other states that are considered hostile by the American ruling elite.

States tend to be arrogant and powerful states tend to be more arrogant. Since the American state seems to be in the hands of the gun lobby and agents of the military-industrial complex, it is unrealistic to hope for any immediate action against this powerful lobby of arms merchants. But if the American people take to the streets against these senseless killings, there is no reason to believe that the mandarins of American state cannot be forced to listen to the voices of protest.

Only protest is not enough. A vigorous campaign should also be launched against xenophobic politicians who are contaminating the minds of young Americans with the ideology of hate. From Hollywood to MIT, all sections of American society should rise up against these killings and the ideology that motivates people to commit such heinous crimes. If the American people remain silent, history will never forgive them.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: [email protected] com

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