President Biden has rightly called for an urgent Bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
Published Date – 12:30 AM, Tue – 9 May 23
The mass shootings in the United States have acquired an air of numbing familiarity, evoking a sense of helplessness and frustration. The latest shooting at a popular shopping complex in the Dallas suburb of Allen led to the death of eight people, including Thatikonda Aishwarya, a young woman from Telangana. As we mourn the tragedy, several disturbing questions arise over America’s gun laws and why successive administrations have failed to address the elephant in the room. The latest killings came just over a week after a mass shooting in rural San Jacinto County, north of Houston, where five people living together were killed by a neighbour after they asked him to stop shooting his gun in his front yard. And they occurred a little less than a year after the massacre at Uvalde, where two teachers also died. There have been at least 198 mass shootings in which four or more people were killed or wounded this year so far, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Rising above the usual and by now familiar statements condoling the deaths, President Joe Biden has, this time, called for an urgent Bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Echoing widespread public sentiments on the gun menace, he has rightly come in support of enacting universal background checks, requiring safe storage and ending immunity for gun manufacturers. Tighter gun control is what a vast majority of Americans want but the successive governments have failed to act. The Republicans, by and large, are strongly opposed to gun control.
There were an estimated 390 million guns in circulation in the US in 2018. The US ratio of 120.5 firearms per 100 residents far surpasses that of other countries around the world. Though there has been massive public outrage against these pointless killings and a raging debate over gun laws, nothing much happens in a country where buying military-grade weapons off the shelf cheaper is easier and more accessible than buying health insurance cover. Some states have taken steps to ban or strictly regulate ownership of assault weapons. Laws vary by state but California, for example, has banned ownership of assault weapons with limited exceptions. The National Rifle Association (NRA) remains the most powerful gun lobby in America, with a substantial budget to influence members of Congress on gun policy. Over the last several election cycles, the NRA and other organisations have consistently spent more on pro-gun rights messaging than their rivals in the gun control lobby. For all its sheen of freedom, democracy, equal opportunity and liberal values, America’s worst-kept secret is the menace of mass shootings. One fails to understand why any legal system should allow an unhinged teenager to buy automatic weapons virtually unquestioned. This is the stark reality of America, a country where the gun lobby holds much more clout than the healthcare industry.