American politicians who oppose gun control have blood on their hands, says Ayesha Hazarika after the latest mass shooting in the US.
I’m part of regular political panel show called CNN Talk which is broadcast internationally. Less than six weeks ago, we had a sombre discussion about gun control in America in the wake of the Las Vegas shootings in which 58 people were murdered.
We were joined by the author Lionel Shriver who made her name by writing the best-selling book We Need to Talk About Kevin about a young American boy who murders family members and classmates. We had a lengthy discussion about whether it was right to talk about these shootings so much on television and whether that glorifies the men who carry out these crimes. Of course, we also talked about gun control.
We didn’t think we would be talking about the same story quite so soon again. When the news came through about the shootings in Texas, the sad truth is that we weren’t that shocked. These mass shootings are now part of American life. They have become normalised. We are all horribly desensitised to them. Even when the human stories unfold – a pregnant woman and many children dead, including the daughter of the pastor of the church where the shooting happened.
The woeful, wicked lack of political leadership on gun control becomes ever more entrenched with every massacre. The reaction from Donald Trump was pretty breath-taking even by his standards. Yet again, the shooter was a white male. Yet again the President of the United States failed to grasp the basic point that perhaps those things called guns may have contributed to yet more loss of life. Oh no. On this occasion, it was all about mental health – not firearms.
Trump is at his best (you know I mean worst) when he seeks to divide people with his cartoon political narrative about who is good and who is bad.
Had the shooter been of brown or black skin, this event would have inevitably been down to terrorism and ideology and would have resulted in some insulting, sweeping statement about Muslims or immigrants. But because this was yet again a white man, out came a shiny new excuse – mental health.
Now of course anyone who commits these kind of heinous acts has profound psychiatric disorders, but it is madly irresponsible to suggest that anyone with a mental health issue (which is most of us) is likely to do something like this. Mental health should not be the scapegoat for what is the real issue here – access to guns.
And if Trump is serious about blaming mental health for gun violence, why did he revoke measures introduced by Barack Obama to screen gun buyers for – guess what – mental health issues.
Why is no one raising the red flag which is common in so many of the men who commit mass murder, including terrorist acts, which is a history of domestic violence against their partners and children. Many gun deaths involve a girlfriend, wife, ex-partner or family member. Many men who kill with guns have often been charged with domestic violence. Go figure.
On our screens, we watched Republican politicians, one by one, take to the airwaves talking about God, prayers and hope, but not one of them talked about gun control. Apparently, it was “too soon” just after the event to “politicise” a tragedy. Really? Because Trump would never, EVER seek to “politicise” a tragedy, right?
Is it still too soon five years after the Sandy Hook shootings, in which 20 children aged between six and seven were killed along with six adults? Too soon after Orlando last year when a gunman killed 49 people a nightclub?
Veteran anti-gun activist Michael Moore tweeted that “as of yesterday, Columbine is no longer one of the ten worst mass shootings in US history. Three of the top five are all in the last year-and-a-half”.
Gun violence in America is out of control. Trump’s (current) press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, with her usual dead-eyed lack of irony that is mandatory for the job, said: “There’s a time and a place for political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country.”
But, let’s get real, there will never be a good time for politicians to talk about gun control in Washington because they are in hock to the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA has a vice-like grip on a large number of American politicians because they give them huge amounts of funding and US politics is all about the cash – no matter how dirty and corrupt it is. These politicians who repeatedly trot out NRA excuses and memes are despicable. “Guns don’t kill people, people do” – what a load of rubbish.
Trump also claimed that more gun control would have killed more people as the Texas shooter was killed by another citizen with a gun. That is a totally absurd argument. If the man who carried out the terrorist attack in New York last week had had firearms, you can bet your bottom dollar the death toll would have been much higher. I know we all love moaning about the state of our politicians over here, but could you imagine living in a country which allows the mass slaughter of innocent civilians on a daily basis?
After the horror of Dunblane, MPs and the government of the day moved quickly and within 18 months, had passed a ban on the private ownership of all handguns. Britain has never had a gun culture like the US or the deep historical attachment to the “right to bear arms”, but it shows where there is political will, there is a way. Trump and these other US politicians will never tackle this issue while they pander to the NRA and hoover up its money. As legislators, they could bring in sensible controls like background checks, registers and limiting how many weapons one person can buy, but they won’t because of their own corrupt self-interest. These despicable men and women in Washington have blood on their hands. These lawmakers may not be responsible for carrying out these atrocities but they are responsible for their pathetic lack of action.
Spare us your prayers, stand up for the people who have lost loved ones and do the right thing.