Guns and America: Serious Solutions Needed

June 20, 2016 Updated: June 24, 2016

A headline about America’s gun crisis says it all: “1,000 mass shootings in 1,260 days.”

If it weren’t so easy to obtain a gun in the United States, Omar Mateen, 29, who spoke often of violent intentions before going on his three-hour-long shooting rampage in a popular gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12, wouldn’t have been able to buy the semi-automatic assault rifle and pistol he used to kill 49 people and wound 53 others. The Pulse nightclub attack was the deadliest mass shooting in American history. It brought the number of gun-related deaths in the U.S. this year to 6,025, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

 “We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world,” deplored President Barack Obama after the San Bernardino attack last December.

We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world.
— President Barack Obama

The absence of effective gun laws at the national level is undoubtedly the major cause of this ongoing mayhem. Guns are a lethal force multiplier, which increase the danger a person with untreated anger, fanatic ideologies, an unstable mind, or other mental health issues can pose.

As long as deadly weapons remain easily obtainable, the next tragic mass shooting will always be right around the corner. The U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein asks, “Why should any civilian be able to acquire an assault rifle?”

Data from the Gun Violence Archive on the crowd-sourced website Shooting reveals a dismaying reality: There is a mass shooting—defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter—on five out of every six days on average. There were five other mass shootings across America during the same weekend as the one in Orlando.

Despite the power of the National Rifle Association and the bitter partisan divide in Congress, the time has come for a national rethink about gun control.

Each time another slaughter occurs, shocked citizens are left to ponder why it happened and how it could have been prevented. The most obvious conclusion—that there must be greater gun control—continues to elude too much of the body politic in the United States.

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) called for an outright ban on automatic weapons; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a renewal of the assault weapons ban, which was repealed during the George W. Bush administration.

A marathon Democratic filibuster came to an end in the U.S. Senate last Thursday, June 16, after Republicans agreed to hold votes on tighter gun control measures. Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who led the filibuster, announced that he had won commitments from Republican leaders that they would hold votes on amendments to expand background checks and ban gun sales to suspected terrorists. It’s a start.

No justice issue divides Canadians from Americans more than handguns and assault rifles. Our citizens are often victims of the toothless federal regulation of guns. The U.S. measures at the state and municipal level differ so widely that weapons, such as handguns and assault rifles, which are declared restricted in Canada, often flow virtually unimpeded from states with weak laws to ones with stronger regulations and across international borders.

Robert Spitzer, author of “The Politics of Gun Control” concluded that effective gun regulation across the United States requires a brand new framework despite thousands of regulations at the state and municipal levels.

Ultimately, it’s about the attitude toward guns in the United States that allows perpetrators’ twisted thoughts to become deadly action so easily.

The concept of a right to own firearms did not exist even a generation ago. “For 218 years,” Michael Waldman wrote in “The Second Amendment: A Biography,” “judges overwhelmingly concluded that the amendment authorized states to form militias, what we now call the National Guard,” and included no right for individuals to own firearms.

Chief Justice Warren Burger in a 1991 interview described the then new notion of an individual right to bear arms as “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

The individual right to own a gun was not mentioned anywhere in the Constitutional Convention, in the House of Representatives when it ratified the Second Amendment, in the state legislatures that debated it, or in the correspondence of those involved with its creation.

Americans are again asking themselves what can be done to keep killers away from guns. The Orlando horror is a terrible reminder of how easy it is for an Omar Mateen to obtain weapons designed for maximum murder. Americans and others need to see that representatives in Congress are now seriously seeking solutions.

David Kilgour

David Kilgour, a lawyer by profession, served in Canada’s House of Commons for almost 27 years. In Jean Chretien’s Cabinet, he was secretary of state (Africa and Latin America) and secretary of state (Asia-Pacific). He is the author of several books and co-author with David Matas of “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for Their Organs.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.