Fifty Shades of a Rainbow
Gun Violence vs. Terrorism: The Forest Among the Trees
50 confirmed dead. 53 injured. Many critically. Our Sunday world splashed with yet another mindless, blood curling act of depravity, this one a full fifty shades of the rainbow. Victims consisting the marginalised L.G.B.T. community, struggling for acceptance in over half the world, including my own, and divisive by virtue of their existence almost everywhere.
Instantly declared as an act of domestic terrorism, leading to a more comprehensive investigation, the mass shootings on 12th June 2016 at Orlando, Florida are another grim reminder of why humans and weapons don’t gel. Simply put, most of us don’t have the maturity to handle what comes with power.
While the senator of Florida, Mario Rubio was quick to focus on the Islamic credentials of the perpetrator, Omar Mateen, his native Florida upbringing was barely mentioned in passing. Why was America fixated on the terrorist angle alone as against the violent act this American so brazenly carried out by possessing firearms?!
Year after year, with tragic accuracy, the United States of America has played host to acts of violence of the worst kind. Worst because the victims are often the most powerless (children, teenagers & handicapped) and least connected to their perpetrators (mostly bystanders). The Columbine High School Massacre, Red Lake Senior High School, Virginia Tech Shooting, Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting, Binghampton Shootings, Fort Hood Massacre, Aurora Theatre Shooting, Charleston Church shootings, San Bernardino shootings… the list is unabated.
America suffers from a deep-rooted culture of gun and arms related violence that needs deep investigation and anthropological introspection in order to find a solution. A simple search on Wikipedia lists as many as over 430 incidents related to school shootings alone. 38 of these incidents occurred before 1900, 51 before WWII, 108 between between 1940–1990, 61 between 1990–2000, and a whopping 176 in the digital age, from 2000 till until now. Add to this list acts of violence at malls, theatres, community centres, streets & nightclubs and one is staring at over 500 such reported incidents! A handful of these are acts of terrorism. Each and every act, without exception, is an act of violence borne from possessing a gun
As the US transitioned from the recessionary and war strewn 30’s-60’s, into the flower power 70s and beyond, there was a visible shift in victims of gun violence; from families and felony related shootings to mass shootings of just about anyone! Simply put, there was almost no logic to why someone killed someone. They just did and as a victim, you just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
As gun related violence has gone up, so has the debate for and against guns. The Democrats, particularly President Obama have time and again called for more stringent gun control as a measure to stem violence. The Republicans and proponents of guns call for greater and easier access to guns as a deterrent. This doesn’t make sense. The USA already has the highest ratio of guns to citizens at 90 per 100! Almost a third of all firearms owned by people across the world are in the US alone. The solution here isn’t providing more guns; rather it is solving the problem of having too many guns.
At times, a case is made for the mental condition of those responsible for mass shootings. This is largely true. Of 67 shooters in the last 30+ years, 65 had mental issues. Worryingly 55 obtained firearms legally. This points to a systemic vacuum in controlling who has access to guns and who does not. Owning a gun cannot be a right; it must be a privilege. Just as respecting an individual cannot be a privilege; it must be our duty.
The next few days will reveal how deep an act of terrorism the Orlando mass shootings were. But we already know that its’ the most vicious act in America’s (statistically) well distributed history of gun violence. Until one doesn’t see the forest among the trees, a solution to this cultural malaise will be hard to come by.