Curb gun sales, heal the races in America

Obama said no other advanced country faces this level of violence, which points to a systemic problem confronting a trigger-happy society.

Published: Sat 20 Jun 2015, 11:36 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:51 PM

How can America talk of racial healing in the shadow of the gun? In a country where weapons can be easily procured, young White men like Dylan Roof will be motivated to kill just because they are intolerant and do not see eye-to-eye with folks of a different colour.

Take a look at the stark figures. Mass shootings have become so common in the land of opportunity that 283 incidents were reported last year. Four or more people were shot during these tragedies which have split communities and the country right down the middle as race relations hit a new low.

So, how did the 21-year old get his hands on a gun? Some police sources say the alleged killer was gifted the .45 bore weapon by his father on his birthday. But the young man’s grandfather said Roof bought the firearm using some money he received as a birthday gift. He then went to Charleston’s historic church, prayed with the congregation, whipped out the weapon and fired away — at Black worshippers. ‘‘You’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country ... I have to do what I have to do,’’ he is reported to have said as he indulged in his bloody frenzy.

The media was quick to brand it a hate crime, which it was, but President Obama, who personally knew the murdered pastor of the church, saw a deeper malaise in the system. Let’s admit it: America’s core has turned deeply violent — and vengeful as more weapons are being sold to civilians and criminals. Guns fan hate and people can take it out on anyone easily. You can buy a firearm from a weapons store, a gun show, pawn shop, shooting range, sporting goods store, supermarket, or even online— if you’re not a felon.

The president walked a fine line when he said innocent people were killed because someone who wanted to ‘‘inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun’’. Obama’s efforts to tighten anti-weapon laws have run into political rough weather in Congress because a majority of Americans oppose changes to current laws.

Pew, Gallup and CNN polls say opposition to gun control has only increased over the last couple of decades. Lobbyists have spent millions of dollars for the right to fire weapons. They claim possessing a firearm is the best form of defence against criminals, including alleged hate perpetrators like Dylan Roof.

A Gallup poll showed that between 2000 and 2014, the number of concealed handgun permits soared from about 2.7 million to well over 12 million. Annual federal background checks for those looking to buy firearms increased from 8.5 to 21 million. It was also revealed that 42 per cent of Americans now have a gun tucked away not-so-safely at home.

Obama said no other advanced country faces this level of violence, which points to a systemic problem confronting a trigger-happy society. Reining in racist rage will be challenging and could take time, but it will be made easier if guns are banned from being sold to civilians — even for their defence.

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