It has been the bane of the U.S. for a long, long time. And, it continues even more aggressively in the 21st Century, wherein we are all supposed to be living in an evolved social civilization of cultured, refined and civilized human beings living together amicably.
And, it is happening in the most economically and militarily advanced nation on the planet, which is considered to be the only “super power” left after the complete domination and total ascendancy of one single country leaving all the others far behind.
I am referring here to the mutual killings of American citizens by each other, the latest being the mass killing of 12 people in a municipal office building on Virginia Beach on the East Coast of the U.S.
Terrible, and completely avoidable.
Why do civilized people need guns to protect themselves? The U.S. has a very large, dispersed and credible law enforcement department in all its states to guard and protect the people. There should really be no need for weapons, even of the milder variety. In this case of mass shooting, the killer used a high-capacity magazine (to provide him with many more bullets) and a silencer. In previous killings in the U.S., the killers have used military style weapons, which should not have been made available to normal citizens in any case.
As I was watching the episode being played out on CNN yesterday, and then on Michael Smerconish show late in the evening Singapore time, I could feel that this issue of guns and gun violence is not going to go away in the U.S. Smerconish revealed at the end of his session that 73% of the viewers who took part in an online survey which he initiated at the beginning of his show felt the same way. Only 27% of his viewers who participated in the survey felt that something could be done. This shows that the U.S. is inextricably entangled in the gun issue, and the killings that ensue which are unlikely to stop, irrespective of any government legislation.
Why will the most advanced nation on earth allow such unnecessary killings to happen? This was not a terrorist act. The killer was a disgruntled long time municipal employee. Apart from the easy availability of legal guns, the U.S. also has to contend with a more serious issue: that of mental health in a population that is considered to be generally prosperous as per world standards. The per capita income exceeds USD 60,000 and in comparison, India’s per capita income is around USD 2,000 and China’s is around USD 8,000.
If incomes are a determinant of crime in a society, then low incomes in poorer countries should be a leading indicator of endemic violence but that does not seem to be the case. So, it is not income per se that is the cause of violence in society – higher incomes would then have meant a drop in violence and crime. The U.S. is suffering from a combination of mental health problems, segmented unemployment, and very easy availability of weapons. If problems at home can be taken out on one’s colleagues, that is a very bad indication of deteriorating mental stability. It is very difficult to monitor such developments in an individual, unless his or her colleagues report on behavioural changes to the negative extent to their superiors. Oftentimes, the superiors and the HR department ignore such issues as they probably think these will eventually get resolved and should not be bothered with as long as there is no measurable impact on the business.
However, in a developed country with “affluenza”, it becomes critical to observe how employees behave and conduct themselves. Imagine what would be the impact if a large Silicon Valley company or a large Wall Street Bank had a disgruntled, totally frustrated employee who takes out an assault weapon and starts shooting his or her colleagues. Is it unlikely? No, it is not. It can very well happen anytime. We have seen a series of school shootings in the U.S. and the huge psychological and traumatic impact these shootings have had on school going children.
Does any other advanced and civilized nation has this kind of gun problem?
The answer is an emphatic NO. There might be occasional violence and petty crimes, and terrorist attacks in countries such as France and elsewhere. The recent mosque shooting in New Zealand is clearly a terrorist attack. But there is hardly any developed country wherein a guy pulls out his gun from his person and shoots at others in a bar, and these kind of shootings have happened multiple times in the U.S.
The U.S. has a real serious problem on which the government is not paying any attention. The Congress is not paying attention either. Gun violence is coming up only as part of the Presidential Campaign primaries, and even the Democratic hopefuls are tentative as no one wants to take on the most powerful NRA (National Rifle Association) which funds many politicians in the U.S. There are other very powerful Conservative Political Thinktanks and Political Action Committee Funds which keep influencing and funding politicians on the right and the extreme right, and this only means that there will be no legislative solution to the gun violence problem in the U.S. anytime soon. This problem will persist and innocent Americans will keep dying for no fault of theirs.
Is the U.S. setting up a role model on this matter for the rest of the world? I am afraid that such happenings will influence not only the potential gun killers hiding in the U.S. waiting for their turn to unleash their weapons on the slightest pretext, but will also influence killers elsewhere even in better gun-free societies.
And, that is the worst part of the emerging scenario on gun violence in the U.S. It is really high time that the U.S. Government, the Congress and the Supreme Court get together in a non-political manner and launch a new gun violence reduction initiative, part of which should be targeted at offering a gun amnesty program like what Australia executed in the Nineties.
If innocent people continue dying because of gun violence in a peaceful society environment, and not in war or conflict, then the government should ask itself some serious questions. And, take some serious actions.
Will the U.S. government do that?
Have a great week ahead, folks,
02 June 2019