Our hearts go out to the victims who died in the Orlando Shootings on 12 June. The massacre goes down as another one of America’s gun violence statistics. The attack is categorised as a terrorist act and hate crime, but the conversation has been diverted away from gun control.
The fear of terrorism heightened after 9/11 where almost 3,000 Americans died. Since that fateful day, American-Muslims have become victims of hate crimes and discrimination. Even Donald Trump has blatantly accused Muslims as threats to American society and they should be barred from entering the country. America’s paranoia of terrorism certainly makes it a good distraction for another serious discussion about gun control.
As per the Second Amendment: ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed’, Americans have the right to possess and purchase firearms for self-defence. In the latest statistics, there are 300 million firearms across the country and just this year, there are already 133 mass shootings and 15 of them were in Florida alone. In 2015, there were 372 mass shootings which killed 475 people. Further, an average of 11,385 peopled died between 2001 and 2011. The Orlando Shootings now joins the ranks of the Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston and the Umpqua Shootings.
When gun violence happens, the nation responds predictably: There would be outcry for gun control followed by politicians and the president giving empty promises. Then, the subject will be dropped while citizens await future tragedies. This time, the Democrats said they would push for gun control laws and impose a terror watch list. A total ban is near-impossible, but the Democrats argue that a ban would at least limit terrorists from purchasing heavy arsenals.
But why is there a love affair between America and firearms? This is thanks to the country’s history and Hollywood entertainment. Modern day America was founded by colonialists using guns to overpower Native Americans. Subsequently, the Americans fought in a series of wars: War of Independence, American Civil War and the Mexican-American war. But it didn’t stop there, Americans were wary of European powers like the Spanish and French who might colonise land or interfere with politics of the Americas (see the Monroe Doctrine).
Politics aside, society approved of using guns to resolve problems like settlers fighting off Native Americans, bounty hunting for the most notorious criminals, and duelling as a way to defend one’s honour and to settle personal scores. The golden era of Hollywood had also spawned many memorable Westerns like High Noon, The Man With No Name series, The Magnificent Seven, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and Once Upon a Time in the West which glorified gun-totting mavericks braving the frontier and challenging incompetent and corrupt authorities. Then, not to mention the explosion of action flicks during post-war Vietnam when America were demoralised by their failure to stop communist influence in SE Asia.
Interestingly, gun sales spike after a gun violence incident happens. A part of modern day America is supposedly founded on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense which appealed to the rational minds of Americans to challenge the British government and the monarchy. But when it comes to gun control, it’s a whole new affair.