OPINION: Bang! Bang! USA...again

Buddy Gomez — Cyberbuddy

Posted at Nov 09 2017 01:23 PM

Yet, again, another mass shooting! Where else but in the United States of America! It was the worst mass shooting in Texas history.

Just last Sunday before the noon hour: 26 dead and 20 wounded— seniors and children, ages 74 to 5—all churchgoers, inside a house of worship during services. It was the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, a rural township of less than 500 souls.

The weapon: a military-style Ruger automatic rifle.

Pictures from social media accounts of Devin Kelley, the 26-year-old ex-Air Force member who walked into a church in Sutherland Springs with an assault rifle on Sunday, killing 26 people and wounding 20 more. AFP

The shooter: a 26-year-old white male, dishonorably discharged from the US Air Force after serving a court martial conviction. He was from New Braunfels, a city 35 miles to the north (part of the San Antonio Metropolitan Statistical Area) and reportedly had a score to settle with in-laws. During the last few months, the shooter had purchased three hand guns and the rifle. The gunman was shot dead in a chase that ended in a car crash.

When news media first broke, the referenced location was San Antonio. Almost immediately, the reach of the internet was in full use for my cyberspace community. Known to them to be a resident of San Antonio, I received numerous messages of concern from friends all over the globe wishing me and family safe and well. I wish to thank all of them for the caring sentiments. We are all fine, safe and just dandy, thank y’all!

An aerial photo showing the site of a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 6, 2017. Reuters

San Antonio is some 40 miles to the northwest of Sutherland Springs. (Just a week earlier, I passed through. From my home, Sutherland Springs is half way to the small city of Cuero where I visited a kennel specializing in breeding Labradoodles. I might gift myself one for Christmas. Mambo, my Havanese, has left for ‘dog heaven.’)

If there has ever been any doubt that a country’s proliferation of gun ownership correlates with the statistical probability of experiencing mass shootings, the U.S. has to top the list. Simply, hands down!

The numbers are stark, real and crazy! A minimum of 270 million guns has been recorded to be in American hands. The U.S. Congressional Research Service even came up with an official estimate of 300-million-plus.

Mass shooting, as defined by the Gun Violence Archive, (a not-for-profit civic organization) is “any incident in which a gunman shoots or kills four or more people, in the same general time and location. Going by this definition, to date in the US, there have been 10 mass shootings, or once a month!

President Trump, who has added to his litany of self-generated repute by expressing idiosyncratic and quirky reactions (via Twitter) to happenings around him, insists that gun violence in the US is a “mental health issue” and not one of “gun control.” (Sorry, folks, but I cannot resist this. Coincidentally parallel is our President Duterte’s mind. To him, the singular dominating problem in the Philippines is “drugs,” nothing more, not even poverty. Hence his “war on drugs” instead of a “war against poverty” for which he has done absolutely nothing!)

A 2015 study conducted by a University of Alabama Professor, Mr. Adam Lankford, revealed that while the U.S. population is about 4.5% of the global population, they own 42% of the world’s guns. Statistics gathered showed that 31% of the mass shootings worldwide covering the period 1966 to 2012 were committed by Americans. Mr. Lankford further shows that, adjusted for countries with more than 10 million population, only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings than the US. Yemen possesses the second-highest rate of gun ownership after the U.S.

Other studies also reveal that the United States exhibits the “highest firearm homicide rate” as well as the “highest rate of unintentional firearm deaths,” the world over.

Do we not, therefore, already have the sufficient answer to the question: Why so many mass shootings happen in America? Comparative researches covering many countries, for decades now, have consistently pointed to the proliferation of guns as a matter of commonality. But why, in the first place, is there such a proliferation in the United States?

My sense tells me that the U.S. has an exceptional gun culture. Culture, as we commonly know it, refers to and/or encompasses our collective attitude, behavior and beliefs as a society or a segment of our society. When it comes to firearms, guns and rifles, such becomes “gun culture.” Attitude. Behavior. Belief. America possess an exceptional gun culture. It is inextricably embedded in the country’s history. Witness and recall names such as Colt, Smith & Wesson, Winchester, Browning, Remington, Springfield, Marlin, Gatling, Mossberg and Walther. No other country in the world hosts that many firearm brands!

Above and beyond all else, America’s gun culture is truly exceptional because it is enshrined in the Constitution. There is no other country in the world today that upholds the guarantee of individual gun ownership as a matter of individual right in her Constitution. While the Guatemalan and Mexican Constitutions are said to contain a similar proviso, their respective charters were both modeled off the American template.
An indispensable element in all discussions of guns and ensuing violence spawned in the US is always that famous Second Amendment to the US Constitution. It states that “a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of the free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Much debate over its meaning and interpretation have occupied American discourse for quite some time now. When the US Supreme Court struck down a Washington DC handgun ban in 2008, it ruled that the right to bear arms belongs to the individual and therefore, “shall not be infringed.” That meant the Second Amendment protected the individual’s right to bear arms. I recall that it was a much-talked-about split decision. The [US] Supreme Court had much earlier deemed that the “militia” word in that amendment was a restriction to gun ownership by itself, a “well regulated militia” being today’s military and police.

That the Supreme Court majority voted to do away with that “militia” clause and completely disregard the fact that there were no automatic firearms, just single-shot muskets and blunderbusses, at the time of when the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791 has been blamed for gun proliferation. Such victorious advocacy for individual gun ownership rights is also hailed as evidence of the power wielded by the National Rifle Association (NRA). How such legal happenstance came to pass and now, case law, is a matter for Constitutional scholars and legal experts to divine. For now, “dura lex sed lex.” The law may be harsh but such is the law!

But a word about the NRA is called for, especially for the ones absent when the subject was taken up in class! It is a very staunch advocate of individual gun ownership/Second Amendment rights. It is an over 140-years organization. NRA claims to have over 4 million members, behaving most prominently as a powerful lobby and pressure group vehemently espousing its anti-gun control agenda through the U.S. Congress. Increasingly, the $12 billion a year firearms industry in the US has become the NRA’s financial angel. NRA is the industry’s lobbyist and the public face of firearms.

Will there be changes in the interpretation of the Constitution? Will new regulations on firearm ownership, not excluding the type and caliber of such lethal possessions, emerge as yet another bloody
smear had just splashed across the face of American?

Your guess will always be as good as mine or that of any Tom, Dick and Harry. Nobody really knows. And that is pretty scary!

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.