AMERICA is in the deadly grip of a self-inflicted epidemic. Already this year, in just nine months, 9,940 people — more or less the population of Dungarvan — have been killed in assault incidents involving guns. Of those, 550 were children, and 1,962 were teenagers. This drip, drip of terrible violence can hardly be surprising as almost half of all guns in civilian ownership on the planet are held by Americans.
Firearms are the tools that led to the death of more than 33,000 people — more than twice the population of Killarney — in America every year, according to the Center for Disease Control. This larger figure includes both accidental discharge, murder and suicides, which are on the increase, especially where gun-control laws are less than robust, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. That means more people are killed by gun holders in America every six hours than terrorist attacks did in all of 2014. On top of that, in 2010 more than 73,000 Americans were treated in hospitals for firearm-related injuries, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The statistics are irrefutable and depressing as is the great, almost insurmountable cultural divide highlighted time and time again by this terrible issue.
President Barack Obama, responding in the White House to the latest in a long line of mass shootings — Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Charleston — said on Thursday that “this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this ...”
That the world’s most powerful man feels, if this is not an oxymoron, powerless, or at least greatly limited, in how he can respond to what we regard as profound social dysfunction shows the scale of the problem.
President Obama angrily told Americans that they had made a “political choice” to allow mass shootings like the one in Oregon and blasted the National Rifle Association (NRA) lobby group for blocking reform of gun controls. Since Mr Obama’s re-election in November 2012 there had been 993 mass shooting events — in which more than four people were killed — in the United States. Thursday’s attack, at Umpqua community college in the town of Roseburg, was number 994. Almost 300 of them have occurred in 2015 — nearly one a day.
The mental stability of the Umpqua killer — English- born Chris Harper-Mercer — is a significant issue in this tragedy but that fact that he had an ‘Ireland Freedom Fighters’ album on his MySpace page can hardly be considered a badge of honour even by those who defend decades of terrorism on this island.
Mr Obama has struggled to confront this issue but has not been as successful as he might wish because Americans, or at least a very significant proportion of them , are in thrall to the idea of private gun ownership and their fantasies are encouraged by the corporations that make such massive profits from satisfying this indulgence. The real tragedy for America is that neither of the front runners in the race to succeed him are likely to to be any more successful confronting this issue.
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