The man suspected of killing three people at a party in Alabama surrendered to the police. When he opened fire, 22-year-old Desmonte Leonard also injured three more people. The quarrel about a girl could’ve had a much less tragic end if Leonard hadn’t had a gun handy. This incident discredits US gun laws, which make firearms easily available to every citizen of the country. According to witnesses and one of the victims, the shooting began after a tiff between two groups of guests at a student party at the Auburn University campus turned into a fight. Desmonte Leonard, who was one of the fighters, opened fire, killing three people on the spot and injuring another three. One of the injured is still in hospital in critical condition. Leonard hid for three days; then, he voluntarily turned himself in at the end.
Such tragedies regularly shake American society, vividly proving that unstable elements, such as teenagers, people with mental disorders, and even ex-criminals, often have access to firearms. One only has to bring to mind the massacre carried out by a student of the Virginia Technical Institute, who killed 32 people in 2007, or, the attempt on the life of US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, carried out by a psychopath who shot to death 19 people at a voters’ meeting with the politician. Incidentally, it’s noteworthy that Giffords, who sustained a severe head wound, was a supporter of the current gun laws. In spite of the efforts of a large number of human rights activists, lawyers, politicians, and public figures, it isn’t easy to modify the US gun laws. Gun manufacturers don’t want to lose their profits, so, they continue to praise the advantages of easy access to firearms. To prove their point, those in favour of universal firearms ownership, the majority of whom are Republicans, usually emphasise that the right to carry arms is one of the fundamental rights of in the US Constitution.
On the one hand, this is true. However, the frontier times and the Civil War are in the past; today’s society lives according to different laws. Declarations made by the National Rifle Association or the Gun Owners of America to the effect that citizens’ right to self-defence with firearms helps prevent crime don’t hold water. They pump up the rare occasions when people manage to defend themselves with their own guns on a vast scale, whilst they deliberately ignore nationwide tragedies, which occur all too often. It’s unwise to expect ordinary people to feel comfortable in the use of firearms, when even police officers find themselves the focus of scandal with growing frequency due to the unwarranted use of firearms. Speaking about outmoded ideas, we should mention George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch member, who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death. Although the neighbourhood watch only has the right to warn the cops about suspicious activities, Zimmerman must’ve imagined himself a deputy sheriff in the Wild West, for he killed a teenager who only had a mobile phone, a packet of sweets, and a bottle of iced tea on him. Incidentally, Zimmerman, who legally owned a gun, had been arrested for assaulting a police officer in the past.
The uncontrolled activity of US gun manufacturers is threatening the country with diplomatic scandals as well. The Mexican President repeatedly expressed displeasure with US gun policies because a considerable proportion of the firearms manufactured in the US happen to get into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. When the market is flooded with firearms, anyone can get them, either legally or with the help of underground dealers. The authorities developed large-scale programmes to struggle against illegal gun ownership, for example, street searches, which gave rise to charges of racism against New York City officials. However, the real world shows that the interests of Big Business are more important to the US government than the country’s international reputation or its citizens’ safety.
13 June 2012
Voice of Russia World Service