Gun control in America is a matter of national security
America should treat gun violence as seriously as it treats terrorism
“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times,” President Obama opened his remarks in the wake of the terrifying and tragic events today in South Carolina. It’s at least the 14th time he’s had to do so.
After a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in December 2012 left 27 people dead (including 20 children), the president undertook the effort of bringing meaningful gun control to the United States. That effort failed in Congress.
With just over 18 months remaining in the White House, I would bet that Obama sees his inability to pass gun control legislation as the biggest failure of his Oval Office tenure. You can see — hell you can feel — his resignation as he tells the White House Press Corps (in the video above): “this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”
The dark, obvious truth is that these kind of shootings — which, depressingly, are becoming more common — will continue until America gets serious about its gun problem. Let’s be clear: banning guns outright — a politically impossible notion — or putting stringent restrictions on the sale of firearms would not be a panacea to these killings; there are other contributory factors to consider.
But let’s be clearer: America has, by far, the highest rate of gun violence in the developed world. Mass shootings are not a large contributor to this — since 2000, 486 people have died in mass shootings; in 2013 alone, over 11,000 people were killed in gun-related homicides.
It’s pretty cold comfort that, if you’re shot dead in America, your corpse isn’t likely to have company at the scene. But just as a catastrophic pile-up draws more notice than the thousands of people who die on the roads each year, mass shootings gather unique attention because of the universal human terror they entail.
Attacks like this, as Max Fisher argues in Vox, are just that: terrorism. The destructive power of a semi-automatic hangun — never mind an automatic assualt rifle — in a closely-populated area can be as damaging as any explosive device. And yet in the US, the former is available freely over the counter, in many cases without so much as a background check required.
The political will to curtail certain fundamental rights, in the guise of national security and the fight against terror, is very much still alive amongst America’s politicians. If only they treated the gun violence epidemic with the same severity. ⬢