Why Americans Will Continue To Shoot Each Other
Three people were killed and four others wounded in a shooting at an Indian Reservation in Tulare County, California on Saturday.
Two young girls are among the wounded.
A suspect, 31 year old Hector Celaya, was arrested early Sunday morning by police. At the time of his arrest Celaya was travelling in his car with his two daughters aged five and eight.
According to the newspaper Fresno Bee, Celaya was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with police during his arrest.
In an article on gun control in the States earlier this year Time magazine reported that the gun homicide rate per capita in America is 30 times that of Britain and Australia. Time also reported that there are 88.8 guns per 100 people in the US. Next on the list is Yemen (54.8), Switzerland (45.7) and Finland (45.3). No other country in the world has a rate above 40.
A study on crime in America found that since 2000, violent crime is down 20%, aggravated assault is down 21%, grand theft auto is down 44.5%, non-firearm homicide is down 22% but firearm homicide is unchanged.
Despite an array of high profile shootings in the States in 2012 the American public’s views on gun control have not changed. A poll conducted by Pew Research Centre six days after the Aurora cinema shooting in Colorado which left 12 people dead and 58 wounded found opinion unchanged from its previous poll in April.
In April 45% of Americans prioritised gun control while 49% voted for gun rights. In July results showed little change in opinion with 47% prioritising gun control and 46% in favour of gun ownership.
It was also noted that in the week after the mass shooting carried out by James Holmes in Aurora gun sales went up by 43% in Colorado. Interestingly Michael Moore’s documentary Bowling for Columbine reported that in the week after 9/11 Wal-Mart gun sales rose by 70% and ammunition sales went up 140%.
So why do Americans resort to violence when stalked by fear?
Government and military in America are symbols of death and destruction worldwide. For instance, eight months after 9/11 the head of the FBI, Robert Miller, admitted to a Washington Post reporter that they still did not know who was responsible for the terrorist attacks. This is despite the fact that they had been bombing Afghanistan since October.
As a result it is no surprise that America’s violent ethos develops within its own society. Ordinary people follow the lessons taught by the power structure and America projects a mentality that essentially preaches: resort to weapons to solve your problems.
After Columbine Bill Clinton tried but failed to toughen gun laws. Clinton’s new law proposed raising the legal age to purchase a gun to over 21, to restrict private gun sales, and to require the sale of security locks on all handguns.
The Bill was defeated in Congress. Instead an amendment requiring the display of notices bearing the 10 commandments in schools reminding pupils “Thou shall not kill” was passed.
The problem with guns in America is that gun ownership is invested with constitutional authority and hence constitutional meaning. The gun owner becomes an ideal, an ideal which is constitutional. Guns are many peoples depiction of what it means to be an American.
In the recent presidential debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney neither candidate broached the topic of gun control despite Obama promising to tackle both gun control and mental health after the Aurora massacre.
Neither candidate wanted to seem weak to potential voters by restricting their access to firearms. America loves a cowboy and what’s a cowboy without his guns? Plus Obama is constantly berated by his opponents and critics as being too soft on terror.
Yet despite being a recipient of the Noble Prize Peace in 2009 Obama has a worse killing record for assassinations in his first term in office than George W Bush had during his two terms. In his first term Obama ordered 283 drone strikes on Pakistan, a supposed ally of the US, killing up to 2,618 people.
This is 6 times higher than the number of drone strikes ordered by the Bush administration. Furthermore a study conducted by Stanford Law School and New York University of Law found that “high level targets” killed in these strikes as a percentage of total causalities is as low as 2%.
During the summer the New York Times wrote a 6,000 word front page story about Obama’s assignation campaign. One anecdote in the piece described how every Tuesday Obama would shuffle “baseball cards” with the pictures and bios of suspected terrorists from around the world and choose who would die by drone strike.
America has a history of violence. Don’t expect it to stop. 2011 brought Jared Loughner to notoriety. In 2012 it was James Holmes. Make no mistake in 2013 there will be more shooters. There will be more victims. And there will be more silly questions asking how could this ever have happened.