The Sun News

Las Vegas massacre and US gun laws

By SOLAPE LAWAL-SOLARIN

“Too much of everything has its shortcomings.”

Bet the US, the flag-bearer and custodian of liberalism, will know this in the wake of the latest gun violence that tragically ended the lives of 59 people and wounded 520 others in Las Vegas last week. As usual, the country is in a ‘shock state’, trying to grapple with the latest horror that has made headlines not only within her borders but outside. It is an uncomfortable scenario that has once again thrown into the spotlight the country’s gun culture-one that has continued to generate controversies over the years.

The complications and dangers of the ‘right and access to arms’ in the US have never been hidden; they are dangerous signs that had always been there. From Columbine High School shootings to Southern Carolina and Nevada to mention a few, these tragic events all bore the complacency, or succinctly put, the failure of Washington to confront her ‘worst nightmare’.

The ‘Second Amendment’, the controversial bill that allows Americans the right to bear arms is, and has always been, at the crux of this national matter. Since the time of Obama, the ‘second amendment’ has stood tall like a fortress, as the former President tried to seek changes to it in the congress after the ‘Columbine carnage’. It was a move that fell flat.

And now, in the wake of the Las Vegas shootings, the bill has once again come up on the menu. While one should applaud the ‘sensible’ decision of the Trump administration to, for now, halt the proposed bill on gun modifications, however, taking drastic moves aimed at addressing the proliferation of weapons and the easy access to them should be his utmost priority.

It is wrong to brand the Last Vegas shooting as the ‘most tragic in modern day America’. It is ignoble and annoying. For, any gun violence that leads to death, irrespective of the numbers and casualties, is ‘tragic in modern day America’. Most of these deaths could have been avoided if the government had tightened the screw.

For those against changing the gun laws and restricting ownership, it is awkward to defend the indefensible on the basis of freedom. Every citizen deserves to exercise his/her freedom no doubt, but in countless situations that we have witnessed  prior to the ‘Paddock rage’, it is right to also argue that everybody deserves the ‘right to live’-That ‘right to live’ should not be decided by a trigger-happy fella or a mentally unstable citizen out there.

The mauling down of 59 and wounding of 520 people by Paddock-who investigations proved had passed all tests before being granted the licence to buy arms- clearly validates this point.  And, it is high time Washington confronted her gun laws, once and for all.  The stats are horrific, pathetic and gruesome. According to reports, more Americans have been killed in internal gun violence than her soldiers in wars outside her shores. In the year 2014, thousands of Americans were killed by guns in America. There were a total of 8,124 gun homicides. In 2015, there were 372 mass shootings and 33,636 deaths due to firearms in the U.S, while guns were used to kill about 50 people in the U.K. Every day, 93 people die from gun violence: 32 are murdered, 58 die from suicide, 1 killed unintentionally,1 killed by legal intervention,1 died but intent unknown, according to Brady Campaign Organization, a movement aimed at cutting down gun deaths in the US by half in 2025.

So, America cannot afford to lay back and watch her promising youths, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunties continue to live in perpetual fear of gun-induced deaths.

The onus lies on Trump and the Congress to take a holistic and not a veneer approach to the issue. Halting gun modifications is just a practical step. The government should move beyond that and address the affinity of Americans with guns. It is a deep-rooted problem that has become a lifestyle. Many Americans sees a gun as a household furniture or item.  Well, many would argue that it is a lifestyle that Americans didn’t just embrace; it has been planted since 1791 in the days of the musket when it was America’s most dangerous firearm. But, this is not 1791, this is 2017. Times have changed; things have evolved, thanks to technology. There are more dangerous firearms and various modifications out there, hence, the United States cannot continue to tread without self-restraint.  Unlimited access to firearms is like handing a ten-year-old a ‘grenade’- Just like we found out in Paddock’s (the gruesome killer in the Las Vegas shootings) case.

The discovery of 19 firearms with ammo at his Mandalay (the hotel where he committed his atrocities) suite and another 24 in his home – all licensed- clearly shows the US is losing the battle.    There are many Paddocks out there who passed their integrity tests and other requirements before being permitted to get guns but, along the way, fell victim to inexplicable situations that turned them into villains.Hence, the more reason Washington needs to step up.

Tightening the noose on guns shouldn’t be a national catastrophe as is being painted. Other developed countries have been down that lane, the only difference is that they didn’t hover over it for so long like the US. 

Australia is a great example. After the infamous shooting by a lone gunman at a former prison colony, Prince Arthur, in Tasmania in 1996 that killed 35 people, the government tightened its gun laws while at the same time putting an amnesty in place to allow those with illegal firearms to surrender them to the state. It was a decision that achieved results: 51,000 illegal firearms were surrendered.

Therefore, the US can take a cue from Malcolm Turnbull.Putting a leash on its gun laws cannot be more timely and urgent. Trump owes Americans a duty to ensure their safety. The Las Vegas shooting can’t be more alarming.

As John Lewis, US house democrat puts it: We must use our common sense, we must act now! Today, not tomorrow.

Lawal-Solarin is  on the staff of The Sun

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