News Analysis: Texas mass shooting shows American gun culture's tragic results

Source: Xinhua| 2017-11-06 17:43:34|Editor: Liu
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A mother comforts her daughter near the church where 26 people were killed in Sutherland Springs in the U.S. state of Texas on Nov. 5, 2017. At least 26 people were killed after a gunman opened fire at a church during Sunday services in Sutherland Springs in the U.S. state of Texas, Governor Greg Abbott said on Sunday. (Xinhua/Yan Bo)

by Peter Mertz

DENVER, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) -- The Texas church massacre on Sunday -- the third church shooting in the United States in two years -- has Americans wondering when the carnage will stop.

"I don't know what to say. It's pathetic," said Robyn Lowry Sunday, "America isn't free anymore."

Lowry, an orthopedic specialist, was one of thousands who flooded social media Sunday to voice their dismay over the Southerland Springs Texas Baptist Church massacre that left 27 dead and 20 injured.

"Horror, heartbreak, shame. After another unspeakable tragedy," said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn).

"Enough is enough. Now is the time for commonsense gun violence prevention steps. Congressional complicity must end," He said.

America has been torn apart by this politically divisive issue. A 2016 Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 50 percent of Americans supported President Barack Obama's executive actions on gun control.

That same survey also showed Democrats heavily support gun control while a vast majority of Republicans oppose it.

"Guns are deeply woven into the tapestry of the United States," said Seattle-based lawyer David Richardson, a gun control advocate.

"Gun control is a very bipartisan issue," Richardson said, "Republicans oppose it, and most Democrats support it."

"There is so much money involved that there are no rules of decency," He said.

Today, America has only 1.5 percent of the world's population but owns 357 million guns -- more than half the world's total, according to a Washington Post analysis in 2015.

"Other countries just don't understand -- gun violence here is absurd -- and an obscene example of what America does wrong," Richardson told Xinhua.

Gun deaths are on the rise again, says the U.S. Center for Disease Control (UCDC) that tracks gun deaths every year.

In 2010, guns committed 8,775 murders, and by 2014, that number had climbed to 11,245, according to UCDC numbers.

In 2013, 33,169 deaths came from guns in America -- compared with 4,000 in all of Europe -- with an overall population twice the size of the United States.

In Britain, with strict gun-control laws, there were 58 gun-related homicides in 2011.

In 2012, an armed lunatic marched into a movie theater east of Denver and unleashed hundreds of bullets into the unsuspecting audience, killing 12 and injuring 70.

It was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, but not for long.

Just five months later a deranged 20-year-old man walked into a school in Newton Connecticut and murdered 29 people, including 21 children, with an automatic rifle.

In 2016, the record jumped again, when 49 people were gunned down and 58 wounded in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Then in Las Vegas, there was a staggering 58 dead and 500 wounded -- just 35 days before Sunday's Texas massacre.

"It will never stop -- never -- until the president and the National Rifle Association back down," said Sandy Phillips, a gun control advocate.

"The NRA literally owns a number of politicians -- all Republicans -- and they won't change for one reason -- money," Phillips told Xinhua.

Phillips is one of many who attribute the growth of a pro-gun atmosphere to the efforts of the NRA -- a powerful lobbying group that boasts having 5 million members.

Founded in 1871 to advance rifle marksmanship, the modern NRA has evolved into one of the most effective political organizations in the country, which opposes every single gun control proposal.

Phillip's 24-year-old daughter Jessica Gawhi was one of the dozen murdered in the Aurora Theater shooting, and it launched her into a new life.

She and her husband sold their home, bought a trailer, and hit the road -- devoting their life to traveling around the country delivering "Jessi's Message" about the first-hand horrors of gun violence.

Phillips gives speeches across the county to church and civil groups, to politicians and the media.

In each speech she describes the six bullets that tore open her beautiful, aspiring sports reporter daughter -- and killed her.

Although handguns cause 90 percent of annual gun deaths, automatic rifles have been responsible for all of the large-scale mass murders.

Texas authorities Sunday confirmed the church killer used an automatic rifle -- an AR15.

The same high-powered gun was also used in the Las Vegas, Orlando, Newton, and the Aurora theater shootings.

In 2015, 14 died in San Bernardino by automatic rifle fire, and the same year a white supremacist killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a "mass shooting" is any incident in which a gunman shoots or kills four or more people.

In the first nine months of 2017 there had been 273 mass shootings -- almost eight per week -- according to Gun Violence, which compiles data from shooting incidents.

And that was before Las Vegas and Southerland Springs, Texas.

In 1994, during President Bill Clinton's first term, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban by a 52-48 vote.

But the legislation expired in 2004 during President George Bush's presidency, and attempts to resurrect any ban on assault weapons has been stopped by Republicans ever since.

"You people in the media protect the right of Free Speech -- the First Amendment to the Constitution and us conservatives are doing the same thing with the Second Amendment -- the right to bear arms," said Stephen A. Humphrey, a Republican member of the Colorado House of Representatives since 2013.

The Second Amendment to the U.S Constitution ratified in 1789 allows citizens the "right to bear arms," and "to form a militia."

But those words were crafted 228 years ago when upstart America was fighting for its survival and freedom.

When asked specifically about assault weapons, Humphrey defended the use of such guns: "It's just the advancement of technology ... what was the musket and horse back then are the AR15 and Corvette of today."

Of 64 counties across Colorado, only Pitkin County's Sheriff Joe DiSalvo has been outspoken against certain gun measures.

DiSalvo's county includes Aspen and is known to be a liberal enclave in the mountains three hours west of Denver

"Assault weapons should be banned -- period," DiSalvo told Xinhua.

"They are military theater weapons designed to kill large amounts of people in a short time -- and have no place in a civilized society," he said.

In 1996, a gunman opened fire on tourists in a seaside resort in Tasmania and killed 35 people and wounded 23 more. It was the worst mass murder in Australia' s history.

Twelve days later, Australia's conservative government announced the enactment of sweeping gun-control measures which included a massive buyback of more than 600,000 semi-automatic shotguns and rifles, about one-fifth of all firearms in circulation in Australia.

The country's new gun laws called for increased background checks, limited sales, blanket registration, and required that gun buyers present a "genuine reason" for needing each weapon at the time of the purchase.

"And guess what more mass murders in Australia," Phillips said.

"The solution is simple -- gun control -- but the republicans and the NRA have blood stains on their hands because they won't listen to reason," he said.