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Up In Arms: Gun Culture In The USA

Little over a month has passed since the shocking attack at an Orlando Nightclub in Florida, that we are now reporting another nightclub shooting in the city of Fort Meyers, also in Florida. 49 victims lost their lives in Orlando, making it the worst mass shooting in US history. So far only 2 people have been confirmed dead in Fort Meyers, although currently casualties range from minor to critical. The scale of this latest attack may be smaller, but it doesn’t diminish the ongoing debate about gun culture in the United States.

In 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 53,328 gun related incidents, 392 of those were recorded as a mass shooting, in comparison, 1963 incidents were classed as accidental. 13,445 people died from gun crime in the USA last year, that equates to around 37 people a day. Despite efforts from the Democrats, little has been achieved in reducing these statistics over the last few years. Gun control is a debate that leaves people up in arms on both sides.

The prevalent issue is the ease in which you can purchase firearms in the United States. Omar Mateen, the man responsible for the slayings at Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, obtained his firearms legally. This is despite having been interviewed by the FBI twice in 2013, after colleagues raised concerns about comments he made regarding IS. The investigation was closed after being unable to substantiate the claims. He was interviewed again in 2014 about possible links to Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, a known terrorist. This case was also closed after no substantial link between the pair was found. Some would argue that this should automatically mean he can’t purchase a weapon, others would say that as he wasn’t found guilty of anything, his right to bear arms shouldn’t be affected – the latter was clearly the case.

Omar Mateen was the gunman responsible for killing 49 innocent people at Pulse Nightclub, Orlando Florida.
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As I write this, three people have been arrested for the latest shooting, but we are yet to find out who is responsible or how they got hold of their weapons. However, just taking a look back through other previous high-profile mass shootings in the USA and the same horrifying pattern emerges – it’s too easy to get access to a gun. Columbine in April 1999 is one of the most high-profile and deadliest high-school shootings in US history.  12 students and 1 teacher were shot dead in Littleton, Colarado. Multiple people were wounded; many still live with physical and/or emotional scars from that harrowing event. Though the two teen shooters were only 17 at the time, they were still able to purchase firearms from a private dealer at a gun show. All they needed was to be accompanied by someone aged 18 or over to purchase the guns on their behalf. The Columbine shooting naturally brought up the gun control debate, yet 17 years on, there is still a loophole in many States, that allows the sale of firearms at gun shows to forego the usual Brady background checks.

Fast-forward to December 2015, San Bernardino, California; Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, slaughtered 14 innocent people. The attack was linked to IS and before the Orlando shooting, this was considered the worst terrorist attack on US soil since September 11. Again, the guns used were legally purchased, this time by a neighbour, Enrique Marquez. Under state law, for Marquez to give Farook the weapons, a recording by a federally licensed firearms dealer is required. This did not happen and proves that little can be done to stop people purchasing guns with the intent of supplying them to others. It also soon became apparent the guns had been modified after purchase and therefore illegal for use in the State of California. You have to wonder how Marquez was allowed to buy two semi-automatic rifles in the first place? Surely, there should be restrictions on what type of weapons you can legally own, especially if they’re so easily adaptable to cause maximum damage?

Enrique Marquez purchased the weapons used in the San Bernardino shootings. He himself was not one of the gunmen. source: rawstory.com / Facebook

Enrique Marquez purchased the weapons used in the San Bernardino shootings. He himself was not one of the gunmen.
source: rawstory.com / Facebook

As news was still flooding in on the San Bernardino shooting, President Barack Obama spoke to CBS News and his words have been widely publicised since, “we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel with anywhere else in the world.” In an interview with the BBC, Obama spoke of his frustration in being unable to change gun laws during his presidency. Every time the issue for tightening gun controls is broached, it faces stark opposition. Just after the Orlando shooting, the Senate rejected 4 measures to control the sale of firearms, one of which was to close the loophole in background check laws. The Democrats blame the Republicans for being controlled by the National Rifle Association.  

Unfortunately, politics is getting in the way of common sense, as it appears the Second Amendment that cites “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” is very important to pick-up votes in certain areas. Some people see gun control as an attack on their right to defend themselves. That is not the case, any law abiding citizen would still be able to purchase a gun. Tighter gun controls aim to prevent those who wish to do harm, from getting access to weapons that can inflict it. Tighter controls prevent people being able to purchase semi-automatic weapons without far more stringent checks. However, tighter gun controls aren’t going to stop mass shootings from occurring, just as they’re not going to prevent gun violence in the form of burglary, domestic violence or homicide.

Even if the Democrats gain a majority in the Senate and push through these proposals, there is still a long battle ahead. Until, Americans are willing to relinquish the rights quoted in the Second Amendment, sadly, we will see more families bereaved by bullets.

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