A Texas gun owner practices at a shooting range in Dickinson, Texas, the United States, on Oct. 25, 2017. The growing number of mass shootings in the United States has become a big concern for citizens, elected officials, law-enforcement officers and victims' rights advocates alike. A national debate has emerged pitting gun rights advocates against public health officials and citizens who want more regulations for gun purchases. (Xinhua/Robert Stanton)
by Robert Stanton
HOUSTON, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- Hardly a day goes by without hearing about the latest shootings that run the gamut of gang violence, to domestic assaults, and robberies.
Two people were shot near a college in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Wednesday. The shooting came a day after a Uzbek immigrant plowed a pickup truck down a busy bike path in Lower Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring 11 others in what officials called the deadliest terror attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.
A young Chinese student was killed in a carjacking incident near the University of Utah's campus in the western U.S. state of Utah, while the suspect has not been located 14 hours after the fatal shooting.
Alarmingly, there also more mass shootings of unarmed citizens.
On Oct. 1, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 music concert-goers from his 32nd-floor hotel suite at the Mandalay Bay casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more before shooting himself before police arrived. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Already, several lawsuits have been filed by survivors against the event organizers, the weapons manufacturers, the suspect's estate, and the hotel where the gunman stayed.
On Sept. 10, eight people died in a hail of gunfire that rang out at a football watch party at a home in Plano, Texas, about 35 km northeast of Dallas. The suspect later was killed by police.
And last year in Dallas, a sniper shot and killed five police officers and wounded seven others, and two civilians. The shots rang out after videos were aired on TV news showing two black men shot by police in Louisiana and Minnesota.
The growing number of mass shootings in the United States has become a big concern for citizens, elected officials, law-enforcement officers and victims' rights advocates alike. A national debate has emerged pitting gun rights advocates against public health officials and citizens who want more regulations for gun purchases.
"Anytime an incident like that (Las Vegas) happens, it reminds everybody that 'this could happen to me, also,'" said Travis James, vice president of business development at The Arms Room, a gun store and shooting range in Dickinson, Texas, south of Houston. "It is a situation that would be impossible to plan for."
James said that current U.S. gun regulations are sufficient, but that more should be done to enforce existing laws on the books. Requiring mental health checks for prospective gun buyers is not feasible, he said, because of medical patient privacy laws.
"Unfortunately, the only way to stop a bad buy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said. "You can talk about gun violence all day long, but violence is violence. If you eliminate the gun, people are still going to be hurting people with baseball bats and knives, and vehicles."
Given the proliferation of gun sales in the United States, government officials should scrutinize the psychiatric backgrounds of all prospective buyers, said James M. Douglas, dean of the Thurgood Marshal School of Law in Houston.
"Everyone doesn't need to be walking around with a gun, especially people who have mental problems to start with," he said. "To me that seems like a no-brainer, but all these politicians are so afraid of taking on the NRA (National Rifle Association) lobby."
The nonprofit NRA is opposed to just about every form of gun regulation, including restrictions on owning assault weapons. NRA makes significant financial contributions to politicians, spending over 30 million U.S. dollars during the 2016 election alone, according to reports.
Edward Scruggs, a board member of Texas Gun Sense, agrees that mental health checks should be required for prospective gun buyers.
"A modern, up to date and universal system of background checks prior to purchase would help make it more difficult for those with a history of mental illness from obtaining a gun," he said. "As it stands now, it is possible for almost any adult with an ID to buy a firearm at certain gun shows, the Internet or through private transfer - therefore bypassing a background check.
"Changing federal law to allow a digital compilation of background check records would make the system more accurate and efficient," he said.
Texas Gun Sense also favors laws, now being adopted in individual states, allowing a judge to intervene upon request when a family member believes a loved one has made a specific threat of violence against themselves or others. After a legal proceeding, a judge may decide to restrict an individual's access to firearms until they are deemed competent.
At the Arms Room gun range in Dickinson, Houston resident Steve Henderson fired round after round from his AR-15, one of six weapons that he owns. He said there's no way to stop a person intent on hurting others.
"From a moral standpoint, it boils down to responsibility and life choices," he said. "People are going to do what they're going to do. I'm 'pro guns' for sure. You have to protect yourself and your family. And you do have to educate yourself when it comes to gun safety."