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Opinion

Mass shootings in the US: three reasons for the outburst of violence

Michael Willard on brutal massacres that shocked the United States

Michael Willard on  brutal massacres that shocked the United States Фото: edition.cnn.com

Three mass shootings happened in the United States over the weekend of August 3-4. In El-Paso, Texas, 21-year-old Patrick Crucius opened fire on Walmart customers, killing 20 people and leaving over two dozens wounded. A couple of hours later, 24-year-old Connor Betts (perhaps with an accomplice) started a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, murdering his sister and 8 more victims; 16 were wounded. The third shooting occurred near Chicago, California. Unknown opened fire while driving past a playground, wounding 7 people in the process.

Michael Willard, an American publicist, political analyst and CEO of the international PR-agency The Willard Group, shared his opinion on reasons of the American outburst of violence.

The most common reason for mass shootings in the US is the gun culture that exists.

Some states – such as Texas, where one of the weekend shootings occurred – even have “open carry” laws, meaning you can walk around with an automatic weapon slung over a shoulder and cannot be arrested.

Also to blame is the wrong interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, which provides for the “right to bear arms” in order to organize a well-regulated militia. Nowhere in that amendment— under 20 words — does it give everyone the right to have a gun without restrictions.

However, the US Supreme Court has upheld the 2nd amendment as recently as 2008. In a landmark, the court concluded that the amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia.

Nevertheless, many legal scholars have disagreed. Giving it perspective, the 2nd Amendment was passed 250 years ago when the weapon of choice was a single-shot musket. Today, the ability of one to own an arsenal of automatic weapons and in some states can carry them in the open is ludicrous. Some Americans believe in a Wild West culture of conservative individuality, feeling gun ownership is necessary to re-enforce that image. It is interesting, however, that even in America’s old, untamed days, one could hear stories of the famous Sheriff Wyatt Earp (of OK Corral fame) who had cowboys check their guns at the city limits, only to retrieve them when they left town.

Three mass shootings occurred in a three-day period — Texas, Ohio and California — with a body count of 32. Such tragedies seem to be increasingly frequent over the last 20 or so years. I remember when a fellow, Charles Whitman, climbed up to the bell tower at the University of Texas in 1966 and fired on people below, killing 16. People were shocked. Many years went by before there was another incident of a similar scale. Perhaps, the next notable one was in Columbine High School in 1999, when two students killed 13 before killing themselves. America was shocked all over again. Today, sadly, there is less shock because of the frequency of such massacres.

Therefore, the primary reason for mass shootings in the US is American gun culture. Another important cause is the climate of prejudice that exists due to President Trump’s own comments against people of color and his inability to criticize ultra-nationalists.A prime example of this was two years ago when Trump said the civil disturbance in Charlottesville, Virginia, could be blamed on both sides when video showed an ultra-nationalist was clearly the cause. In this latest El Paso shooting, the shooter released a nationalist manifesto through social media, condemning the influx of Hispanics into the US. He was influenced by his own prejudices fed by people like him.

What can truly reduce the number of mass shootings? I favor strict background checks, registration of all guns, making illegal guns primarily used by the military in times of conflict, such as automatic weapons. There is no evidence proving that weapons in the hands of civilians reduce crime levels in the country. You only have to go as far as information from national police sources, which suggests law enforcement does not believe that a civilian, in nearly all cases, can be of any help in such a crisis. An untrained person is far more likely to shoot an innocent bystander.

I also do not think the absence of media coverage would quell the violence. In fact, due to the media, the public has learned more about how to protect themselves in such situations.

What can reduce violence? A more responsible attitude toward the proliferation of guns and toning down the hate rhetoric in America — from the President on down to the average citizen. The American public has to take a more active stand on this question.

The main disagreements in the US are over values. American values as opposed to Donald Trump’s values, which are decidedly un-American. No longer does the refrain “thoughts and prayers” resonate. They are empty words. They represent crutches for people who want to feel better about themselves after such tragedies.