CJ Werleman on why America must discuss the right to bear arms as the main reason why mass shootings keep happening.
Thirty-two Americans have been killed in three separate attacks in three states during the past few days. All three of the attackers were armed to the teeth with weaponry designed exclusively for the battlefield.
These people were not killed in places most Americans can’t locate on a map. They weren’t killed in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia or Iraq. They were killed at a garlic festival in northern California; a mall in El Paso, Texas; and at a bar in Dayton, Ohio.
These attacks now count as the 246th, 247th, and 248th mass shooting incidences in the United States this year, with the attack in El Paso the eighth deadliest mass shooting in US history.
Much of the discussion has fixated on the ideology of the respective killers. The El Paso attacker allegedly declared his intent to kill Latin Americans in order to stop what he called a “Hispanic invasion”. The Gilroy garlic festival attacker was a devotee of the white supremacist novel Might is Right, and the Dayton attacker is said to have kept a “hit list” of those he wanted to kill and rape.
What is clear is that the US is in the midst of a white nationalist domestic terrorism crisis, a reality emphasised by the fact that right-wing extremists are responsible for all extremist murders in the country since the end of 2017, according to the Anti Defamation League, and that at least two of the three aforementioned attacks were carried out by individuals aligned to right-wing extremist ideology.
Ultimately, we can wax lyrical about Donald Trump and how his toxic discourse has contributed to the alarming spike in right-wing terrorism and hate crimes. Heaven knows I have spent much of the past three years doing exactly that. But there’s no getting around one undeniable fact: It’s the guns, stupid! It’s the guns, stupid! It’s the guns, stupid! Tragically, however, much of the American populace is too dumb to recognise it and far too stubbornly proud to acknowledge it.
Certainly, the country is besieged by a president who is playing to white America’s worst and darkest impulses in pitting American against American – or rather portraying white America to be locked in a do-or-die struggle with non-white immigrants, whether they be Hispanic, Muslim, Jew, black or other. In smearing these minorities as “invaders” and an existential threat, Trump has the deranged and the unstable marching to the Nazi goose step reaching for their guns.
Ultimately, however, the only thing that ties right-wing extremist ideology with these mass-shooting attacks is the word “guns”.
The US isn’t the only Western democratic country to be standing face-to-face with a right-wing extremism problem, as evident in the collapse of centre-left political parties and rise of far-right movements in the recent European Parliament elections and growing popularity of fringe far-right groups in the UK, Australia and Canada.
From Warsaw to Berlin, Vienna to London, Sydney to Rome, neo-Nazis are again chanting genocidal slogans about Jews and Muslims openly in the streets. But, with the recent exclusion of the mosque attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left 51 Muslim worshippers dead at the hands of an avowed white supremacist, it’s US cities where 99% of these mass shootings occur.
Whereas the US has now experienced its 248th mass shooting in 2019, the UK, Australia, Germany, France, Spain and Italy have collectively experienced none.
In 2017 alone, 40,000 Americans were killed by firearms, making it the deadliest year for gun violence in five decades. It was also a record-breaking year for school shootings. More Americans have been killed by an American with a gun than the total lives lost by Americans in all wars fought by, well, Americans.
There are 120 firearms for every 100 US citizens. The country with the second highest per capita gun ownership is Yemen, which is in its sixth year of a brutal civil war involving a multitude of foreign actors.
Tragically, none of this information matters to gun-toting, Trump-loving, liberal-hating, white suburban American who have been fed a diet of NRA (National Rifle Association)-funded Republican Party propaganda on Fox News for far too long and thus see zero correlation between the proliferation of guns and gun violence and racist, right-wing extremist ideology and the spike in right-wing extremist violence.
In the wake of these three horrific attacks, instead of discussing gun control and toxic racist discourse, Trump, Fox News and the Republicans are talking about violent video games, millennial “self-entitlement”, mental health and any number of other non-sequiturs.
Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House of Representatives Minority Leader, appeared on Fox News to tell the American people that video games are to blame for the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. Yes, because everyone knows Japan, for instance, experiences no mass shootings ever because it has no video games. It can’t possibly be the fact that it’s almost impossible to buy a gun in the land of the rising sun, according to this logic.
VIDEO GAME CONSUMPTION UK/US AND WHY THEY CAN’T BE THE CAUSE OF MASS SHOOTINGS – Courtesy Brian Klaas
?? Pop. 65 million
?? Pop. 330 million (5x)
?? Video game revenues: ≈$5 billion
?? Video game revenues: ≈$25 billion (5x)
?? Gun homicides (2017): 31
?? Gun homicides (2017): 14,542 (469x)
The Dayton attacker was still able to legally buy his weapon even after he was known to authorities for having been suspended from school for compiling a “hit list” of people he wanted to rape and kill. “There’s nothing in this individual’s record that would have precluded him from getting these weapons,” Dayton’s police chief Richard Biehl told reporters.
If maintaining a kill list doesn’t preclude an American from legally purchasing a weapon meant only for the battlefield, then what will? Clearly, nothing, which is the way the NRA and its political beneficiaries want it.
$30 million was spent by the NRA to help with Trump’s election in 2016. One of the very first things he did after being sworn into office was to overturn a mental health regulation on gun purchases.
That conservative politicians and pundits refuse to talk about gun control or any other meaningful policy measure in the wake of mass shootings because of the influence of NRA money and the effectiveness of its propaganda tells you everything you need to know about why these tragedies will increase in both frequency and ferocity.