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    Uniquely US Problem: Trump, Republicans Set Firmly Against New Gun Laws – Prof

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    US gun deaths have been soaring for three consecutive years, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Speaking to Sputnik, Professor Robert Spitzer has outlined his vision on the nationwide problem and the ways to tackle it.

    "The national government up until now is firmly in the hands of the Republican Party and Donald Trump, who are firmly set against passing, much less discussing, new gun laws, aligned with the NRA", Professor Robert Spitzer, political science researcher at State University of New York College at Cortland, told Sputnik. "On the other hand, much has been happening in the states, and a growing number of states are strengthening their gun laws".

    There were nearly 40,000 gun deaths in 2017, which is 1,000 more when compared to 2016, The New York Times reported on 18 December, specifying that nearly two-thirds of the cases were suicides.

    According to the media outlet, it was "the largest yearly total on record" in the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's electronic database since 1968. "It was the third consecutive year that the rate of firearm deaths rose in the United States", the newspaper highlighted.

    The top five states with the highest level of deaths by firearms are Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alaska. A permit to purchase of a firearm is not required there and that is the problem, the academic said.

    "A growing body of evidence says yes, because increased or greater gun deaths are associated with states that have lax gun laws and that also have a high rate of gun ownership", he stressed. "This applies to these states. These trends especially have an adverse effect on gun suicides".

    Although the suicide problem is receiving more attention, according to the academic, "more is needed, especially among veterans and other high risk groups where early intervention and counselling programs need to be expanded".

    To make matters worse, alcohol and drug-addicts have access to firearms: "In terms of legal gun ownership, most states do not have laws that allow them to separate people with these problems from their guns", the researcher pointed out, adding, however, that "a growing number of states have enacted 'red flag' laws that would allow such early intervention".

    Illegal Gun Trafficking

    Yet another problem is that the majority of gun-related murders are committed by people who illegally possess that firearm, as Republican Congressman John Faso emphasised in a March 2018 interview on C-SPAN. Furthermore statistics indicate that only three out of 10 gun offenders were legal gun owners.

    Commenting on the issue, the professor bemoaned the fact that the "interstate gun trafficking is subject to little in the way of federal law, and the federal government fails to gather or keep data on where guns go after they leave the factory".

    "Better tracing would allow for more effective interdiction in such trafficking", he believes.

    This image made from aerial video show officers around a Police SUV in the vicinity of a shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, early Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018
    © AP Photo / KABC
    This image made from aerial video show officers around a Police SUV in the vicinity of a shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, early Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018

    Thousands of Children Shot Dead and Injured Every Year

    According to Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan 501(c)(3) organisation, 2,900 children and teens under the age of 19 are shot and killed and nearly 14,500 are shot and injured every year.

    The non-partisan organisation insists that this is a uniquely American problem: "Compared to other high-income countries, American children aged 5-14 are 14 times more likely to be killed with guns" while US adolescents and young adults (15-24 years old) "are 23 times more likely to be killed with guns", it says.

    Spitzer opined that specific measures need to be taken, starting with "safe storage laws", to reduce child death stats.

    "Safe storage laws would help-require guns to be stored under lock with ammunition removed", he suggested. "Roughly half of all gun owners do not lock up their guns at home. That is a major problem". At the same time, "for those entitled to have guns, proper training could be required, but here again only about half of the states require any training at all to own guns, and in many states with training requirements, the training is minimal".

    He insisted that "children and teens should be kept far away from guns", or at least one needs to make sure firearms are not accessible to the youths.

    Mass Shootings Likely to Continue

    The November Thousand Oaks attack became the 307th mass shooting in the United States in 2018, and "it looks as though the trend is likely to continue", Spitzer foresees.

    "There is more research on those who commit mass shootings, and more needs to be done", the professor said. "Better and more thorough background checks would help, as will proper implementation of existing gun laws and better reporting of data regarding mental health problems".

    However, Republicans are not doing enough to tackle the problem, according to the researcher, who presumed that the Democratic Party is much more inclined to support the efforts of the gun safety community.

    "The current Republican Party is firmly in the hands of the gun rights forces, and it generally turns aside any effort to consider new gun laws", Spitzer highlighted. "As the 2018 election showed, however, there is political and electoral traction to be had by supporting stronger gun laws. And the public is paying more attention to the issue".

    Police officers stand along the Las Vegas Strip near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino during a shooting at a country music festival, in Las Vegas. (File)
    © AP Photo / John Locher
    Police officers stand along the Las Vegas Strip near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino during a shooting at a country music festival, in Las Vegas. (File)

    'Gun Grabber in Chief'

    However, the Trump administration is not sitting on its thumbs: The president has recently come under fierce criticism from gun activists for the so-called "bump stocks" ban. They dubbed the move as a "stab in the back".

    On 18 December the Justice Department announced that it had amended Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulations to classify bump stock devices, which allow rapid fire, as "machine guns," and therefore illegal. The devices in question were used by gunman Stephen Paddock during the deadly 2017 Las Vegas shooting.

    Earlier, in February 2018, Trump approved a higher age limit for AR-15 semi-automatic rifles to 21 years of age, as well as background checks for private gun sales. The US president's initiatives prompted Michael Hammond, legislative counsel of Gun Owners of America to brand Trump the "gun grabber in chief", according to The Washington Examiner.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    shooting attack, gun law, Democrats, Republicans, killing, AR-15, U.S. Department of State, Donald Trump, United States
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