SINCE 1966 when 25-year-old ex-marine, Charles Whitman, shot 13 people dead at a University of Texas campus, there’s been over 107 gun related fatalities till date in US schools. Victims have ranged from elementary school infants and toddlers to middle-aged teachers and school staff. The figures above do not include 38 elementary school students and teachers that were bombed to death by Andrew Kehoe in Bath Township, Michigan, in 1927.
The most recent incident happened in Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012. Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother at home in an upper class neighbourhood and then proceeded to the school where she taught elementary students, where he gunned down 27 kids aged 5-10, the school principal, some teachers and finally turned the gun on himself. Police investigations to determine the motive and root cause are ongoing. Historically, the killers are mostly teens and adolescents who are usually disillusioned and have a personality disorder. Some of them have been loners who often suffered abuse and bullying while growing up. The ease with which automatic weapons are procured in the US gives these murderers a violent opportunity to express themselves by causing pain and anguish to the larger community thereby bringing attention to them. Just watching the victims’ families speak and recant their grief and sorrow on television is a gut wrenching experience in itself.
At this point I would like to say a prayer for the families who lost loved ones to this senseless violence. Dear God, please comfort them and make them able to overcome their grief. I pray they find a way to move on with their lives in the midst of obvious heartbreak and shattered dreams.
At the scene of the crime, police found a Bushmaster .33 calibre semi automatic rifle - the chief murder weapon, a Glock 10 mm pistol and a Sig Sauer 9mm handgun by the killer’s corpse. The three weapons were registered to his mother, who was his first victim. The medical examiner has said that some of the victims were shot twice at close range. Who shoots a five year old at point blank range? This was a rampage that could only have been carried out by a deranged monster. Two key ingredients here seem to be the killer’s mental health and the preponderance of guns in the US society - fueled by obsolete gun control legislation.
The right to keep and bear arms, which has been enshrined in the 2nd amendment of the US Bill of Rights since 1791, is one very polarizing factor in almost every US political debate and a very touchy area during elections. Doctor-patient confidentiality also prevents medical psychologists from raising an alarm to law enforcement on the mental conditions and unique behaviour patterns of their patients and the potential consequences to the society. While democrats have historically called for gun control reforms, they have been unable to overcome the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Republican Party (GOP), who have made this the pivot of their politics. In 2008/2009, the US Supreme Court finally stripped the remaining minimal powers from the government on gun control.
The United States has 89 guns per 100 people. That is an estimated 270 million guns in the hands of US civilians. That’s more than the combined populations of Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom! Guns shoot more than 100, 000 people in the US annually. These are staggering statistics. I was shocked when a colleague of mine told me how he had 30 guns in his shed at home in the US.
Every parent expects to drop off their kids at school and return at the end of the school day to pick them up, knowing they will be safe and well cared for. At worst your child might suffer a playground related injury. This spate of mass school shootings brings another concern into the mix. President Obama showed a lot of emotion on TV while addressing the nation on this latest incident. It remains to be seen whether POTUS and the Democrats will risk their political goodwill fighting this malaise by taking on the NRA and GOP with the aim of ensuring gun control regulations that, at least, prevents folks like Adam Lanza from perpetrating the next mayhem.
* Shotubo is based in Lagos.
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