Las Vegas is best known for escapade, fun or recreation and everyone gets whatever his taste and want is. None of the participants in the country music festival in Mandala Bay area could have remotely thought of such a horrific attack of the US history that killed at least 58 people.
Monday night’s mass shooting has broken the US record in deadliness within two months. The perpetrator was 64-year old millionaire white man with no criminal history. He owned 42 guns.
Stephen Paddock: Retired accountant, Las Vegas shooter
According to a Fox News analyst, “We don’t know anything to hate him.” Some reports even tried to humanise him by reporting that he loved ‘country music’ and lived a ‘quite life.’
Whatever is known about the man confirms that he was not a Muslim, thus the act cannot be listed in the category of terrorism. A rich, white male does not fit any established narrative of the US.
Unlike most civilised countries in the world, the US laws do not require a gun buyer to have a license, registration, safety training and legal pledge for its safe storage. Instead of bearing a firearm is a jealously guarded constitutional right. If that was not enough, the Congress is voting on removing a ban on gun silencers this week. The Republican Party-sponsored bill called The SHARE Act aims at removing silencers from the list of items regulated by the 1934 National Firearms Act.
The Mandalay Bay shooting may not be enough for the Congress to postpone the legislation.
According to the FBI, there are over 300 million guns in the US. In 2017 so far, 11,660 people died from gun violence. Till 2011, there used to be one mass shooting every six months but ever since there is one every 64 days, according to the statistics collected by Mother Jones and School of Public Health.
The US has a sizeable mental ill population, which faces no real hurdle in purchasing a gun, eventually ranking it a country with the highest suicide rate amongst the developed nations. Suicide occurrence is higher amongst mostly men and generally white.
Las Vegas shooter wired $100,000 to girlfriend in Philippines
According to the US State Department’s own publically released data, firearms on the US soil killed 406,496 from 2001 to 2013 while 3,380 died of terrorism in the US or were Americans abroad. The statistics suggest that the locals killed abroad in terrorism numbered at 350 during 2001 to 2013 while The Washington Post completes the picture by putting the figure of 3,030 domestic deaths in 2001 to 2013 period from terrorist acts.
While it is established now that the Orlando Club shooter, Omar Mateen, was suffering from bipolar disorder and erratic behaviour and his horrendous acts falls under gun violence, the US media largely refers to it, as a terrorist act for the perpetrator was a Muslim refugee. The Las Vegas shooter, however, is called a ‘psychopath’ and ‘deranged’.
So where does the problem lie? Are these Muslims and blacks or the gun-wielding white Americans, either suffering from depression or inspired by neo-Nazism?
The world’s most powerful country is not ready to address the elephant in the room. The popular US media houses support gun possession and so does the legislature, stating the rationale of personal safety and self-defence.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), US largest firearm lobby, obstructs any move to limit gun possession or restrictions on calibre, range or sophistication. The lobby endorsed Donald Trump and strengthened its grip on US policy without a fail. The 45th US president used to be a staunch supporter of the gun control until 2014, the only issue he thought he agreed with the then President Obama on. It is more about the NRA than Trump and the Congressmen.
After Las Vegas massacre, Trump silent on gun control
The NRA is as big a lobby as it is a corporate cluster. No wonder that it started as a tame, apolitical organisation aimed at educating the public about keeping, using and storing guns safely. Being the nation’s prime firearm safety body it then backed the Gun Control Act 1968. Since violence spiked during the 60s and the 70s, the US Congress passed more gun control laws than ever before or after.
It all changed in 1977 when the NRA convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, saw hunters and sportsmen coming face to face with gun control activists. The coup was successful and the NRA fell to the group defining the second amendment of the US constitution in the most puritan and literal terms. Then on, the NRA lobbied strongly for lesser restriction on buying guns regardless what has been the impact on the crime rate.
The record of gun-buyers is available but cannot be computerised as the NRA opposes it. Even the Congress passed a law forbidding the FBI and other agencies from using computers for gun holders’ record keeping. Obviously, the legislation obstructs the law enforcing agencies’ in conducting a speedy inquiry into homicide cases. The probes become prolonged and the gun-toting perpetrators remain elusive and deadly alike. The Congress even failed to pass a bill oppose handguns in Washington DC. There is no public space barred for weapons, may it be a park, train station or a bar.
So how rationale it is to spend trillions of dollars invading countries like Afghanistan and Iraq while being aloof to affirmative weapon regulations the US soil? How can Washington secure the country by conducting counter-terror operations worldwide while it faces two-fold radicalisation problem at home: White supremacism and Muslim radicalism?
Weapons and explosives recovered from Vegas attacker home, hotel
This year, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise and his staff narrowly survived a mass shooting on a baseball field. He still remains adamant backer of the NRA’s policies. The unimaginable cruelty that gun lobby nourishes eventually shows itself off on the streets of Nevada or Florida.
The other widely debated aspect is the West’s definition of terrorism. Why has it to seen from religion and race’s perspective?
The blood soaking the concert hall of Las Vegas was no different from the children’s in the Army Public School in Peshawar, a dance club in Istanbul or the streets of London. Both are the same: acts of pure evil meant to instil fear amongst the innocent and the unarmed.
The gun violence in the US and apathy towards it speak of the superpower’s misplaced priorities and lack of leadership. The land of opportunities is slowly but surely losing its trademark. It cannot proudly project power around the world when its streets are not just safe for its own citizens.
Naveed Ahmad is a Pakistani investigative journalist and academic with extensive reporting experience in the Middle East and North Africa. He is based in Doha and Istanbul and tweets @naveed360
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