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August 15, 2019

Death trap


August 15, 2019

Gun violence on a mass scale is a sad phenomenon unique to America. This may be the only country where privately owned guns outnumber the total population. Just in the last two weeks there have been three mass shootings resulting in the deaths of 34 innocent civilians who were just going about their normal life.

One of these attacks was in El Paso, Texas, a town that borders Mexico. A 21-year old white man drove from out of town, entered a large Walmart store in broad daylight and opened fire on unsuspecting shoppers, killing 22 and injuring dozens. Later it was found this man had posted a 'manifesto' on the internet spouting anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hatred. He repeated many of the same terms used by President Trump such as “my country is under invasion by immigrants", to justify his rampage. He is now in custody.

Population of El Paso is 85 percent Hispanic, most of them US citizens or residents. Many Mexicans also come over for shopping. It was this aspect of El Paso that apparently made the city a target of this terrorist.

Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization, tracks such attacks in the country. They define mass shooting as an incident where at least four people were shot by guns. According to their database there have been 253 such incidents in the US within the first 215 days of this year. It is a sad, even shocking statistic that has no parallel anywhere in the world outside of war zones.

A second attack took place in Dayton, Ohio, within a few hours of the El Paso attack. The gunman in this case also used a high-capacity semi automatic weapon. Within 30 seconds, policemen on patrol shot and killed the attacker, but not before he had fired 41 bullets killing nine and injuring dozens more.

The second amendment of the United States constitution says that states of the country have a right to have armed militias. In 2008 the US Supreme Court ruled this amendment also includes individuals’ right to own arms. Over time, interpretation of this law has come to include private ownership of any kind of weapon including those explicitly designed for military use.

There is a strong constituency within segments of the American public, mostly in the Republican Party, that believes there can be no restriction on ownership of any kinds of weapons by private individuals. Consequently, in most states people are free to buy, without requirement to register, any weapon from a pistol to an AK-47.

The political leadership of the country is paralyzed, unable to take the most commonsense steps such as checking the background of an individual buying a gun or even putting a limit on how many guns one person can purchase or own. People are being killed with guns by the thousands each year. Yet there is no concrete action by the political leadership. Many of them are strongly influenced by the National Rifle Association (NRA), an organization that lobbies for unlimited gun ownership. Many believe this organization is a front for gun manufacturers.

It is a sad spectacle to watch. The most powerful nation in the world brought to its knees because of rigid, even nonsensical interpretation of a constitutional amendment written over two centuries ago. People in the US often refer to the “intentions of the founding fathers” in the drafting of the constitution. We can only wonder if the founding fathers would have ever imagined 200 years ago weapons that could shoot 41 bullets in 30 seconds. Could they have imagined the Second Amendment would become a death trap for thousands?

The writer is a freelancecontributor based inWashington DC.

Website: www.sqshareef. com/blogs

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