03:50 GMT01 December 2020
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    The Democrats have doubled down on stricter arms control rhetoric after Texas and Ohio were hit by mass shootings that claimed the lives of 31 people, But the debate surrounding gun control is a lot more complex than it first appears with data driving the political rhetoric.

    There is no doubt that mass shootings remain an ongoing problem for the United States – the country with more guns per capita than in any other nation in the world and rates of gun-related deaths around 25 times higher than in other high-income countries.

    The good news is that firearm-related homicides are down by almost half since 1993, according to Pew Research.  But there also appears to be a worrying upward trend in mass shootings, according to the 2015 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report "Mass Murders with Firearms" that looked at data from between 1999 and 2013.

    According to Fox & Friends, there were about 32 "mass shootings", i.e. multiple homicide incidents with three or more victims murdered, under President Barack Obama (2009-2017) and 17 fatal mass shootings under Donald Trump's four-year term, inviting inevitable political comparisons.

    Mother Jones, which tracks shooting cases, argues that 37 and 30 mass killings by firearms occurred during Obama and Trump's tenures, respectively.

    However, last weekend’s killing spree in El Paso and Dayton has sparked a firestorm of criticism for Donald Trump from the Democratic camp, which claims that the president's anti-immigrant sentiment became the trigger for the assaults. 

    In the aftermath of the weekend gun violence, the US president spoke in support of Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), informally known as the "red flag" law, aimed at disarming people deemed dangerous. However, the Democrats say that's not enough and are calling for stricter gun legislation and the expansion of background checks.

    Even prior to the attacks, some Democratic presidential candidates advocated tougher gun control laws up to the outright confiscation of arms, akin to New Zealand's mandatory buyback programme on military-style rifles, which started following the Christchurch attack in March 2019. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) even went so far as to offer to lock up those Americans who refuse to give away their guns.

    The Heritage Foundation, a conservative US think tank, insists that broader gun laws are not a panacea: since 2000, almost 17 percent of mass public shootings have occurred in California, the state with the strictest gun control in the country and an "A" rating from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, while Texas, rated "F", has seen only 6.6 percent of the total mass shootings in the same period of time.

    Conservatives argue that further arms restrictions could hit law-abiding citizens who use guns to defend themselves, citing the Second Amendment. In 2013, the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) found that self-defence could be "an important crime deterrent," estimating that instances of defensive gun use ranged from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year.

    While left-leaning mainstream media sources are claiming that the deadliest shooting attacks are on the rise under Trump, the Mises Institute argues that "media focus on mass shootings shows disconnect from actual crime trends." Citing FBI data, the institute highlights that mass shootings account for just 0.7 percent and 0.5 percent of all homicides in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

    Texas State Troopers keep watch at the makeshift memorial for victims of the shooting that left a total of 22 people dead at the Cielo Vista Mall WalMart in El Paso, Texas, on August 6, 2019
    © AFP 2020 / MARK RALSTON
    Texas State Troopers keep watch at the makeshift memorial for victims of the shooting that left a total of 22 people dead at the Cielo Vista Mall WalMart in El Paso, Texas, on August 6, 2019

    'Democrats are Wrong That Shooting Sprees are Driven by Anti-Immigrant Sentiment'

    According to Texan law enforcement officials, one of the suspects, identified as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, allegedly posted a racist, anti-immigrant document ahead of the attack. Crusius' affidavit, released by The Washington Post on 9 August, indicates that the suspect in the killing of 22 people in El Paso deliberately targeted Mexicans.

    "The left wants to establish its own narrative on what happened, but they are wrong in thinking that it is driven primarily by anti-immigration sentiment," says Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer.

    The shooting spree came amid an ongoing crisis at the southern border in the US, instigated by Central American migrant caravans in 2018. The problem, which includes illegal migrant workers, gang infiltration, and illicit drug smuggling, has become a bone of contention between Donald Trump and Democratic law-makers who accuse the president of human rights violations and "racism".

    "That may have been the case in El Paso, but it is not the case elsewhere. What is driving the rage on the part of many Americans is the destruction of communities all across the country due to lack of jobs and opportunity in many previously stable towns and cities. They turn to extreme violence to get attention for their anger as they think they have nowhere else to go".

    In addition to "red flag" law backed by Trump, US gun control advocates are promoting high capacity magazine bans – restrictions imposed on detachable firearm magazines that can hold more than a certain number of rounds of ammunition – and gun buying background checks to prevent a convicted felon, fugitive, or domestic abuser from acquiring firearms.

    According to the CIA veteran, "it is too late to do anything about availability of firearms", since "there are 350 million unregistered guns in the US."

    He believes that "stricter controls on future sales of guns should include better background checks on a national level and denial of gun licenses to those with criminal records". While "there is probably a consensus of support for that," Giraldi expresses doubts that the Trump administration will resort to tougher arms restrictions.

    "I think Trump will basically do nothing to control gun sales," he said. "He probably believes that most of his supporters do not want restrictions and he may be right".

    As for the much-cited Second Amendment, the former CIA intelligence officer opines that while it "guarantees the right to own firearms," "it also says 'as part of a 'well-regulated militia'": "There is no guarantee in the Constitution that the ordinary citizen could go out and buy as many guns as he or she wants when he has no legitimate use for them," he stresses.

    The weapon and its extended magazine used by deceased mass shooting suspect Connor Betts of Bellbrook, Ohio appears in a picture released by police in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. August 4, 2019
    © REUTERS / Dayton Police Department/Handout
    The weapon and its extended magazine used by deceased mass shooting suspect Connor Betts of Bellbrook, Ohio appears in a picture released by police in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. August 4, 2019

    Broken & Atomised American Society is Behind Shooting Spree

    Mark Sleboda, an international affairs and security analyst and former nuclear reactor operator in the US Navy, does not believe that the Democratic-proposed stricter gun control laws will stop mass shooting incidents in the country. However, "making it harder to access firearms in some cases during moments of disturbed individuals’ angst" could "decrease the probability and frequency of such events," he says.

    "Restricting the so-called  'right to bear arms' to only properly licensed hunting rifles used for that actual purpose would be a good and sane start," he suggests.

    According to the security analyst, the major reason behind the recent attacks is "a broken, atomised and terminally dysfunctional American society" that is "awash with guns" and "glorifies violence of all sorts in every medium."

    Sleboda believes that the pressure exerted on Trump by the Democrats in the aftermath of the shooting spree should be seen within the framework on the 2020 presidential race.

    "Democratic presidential candidates went after Trump blaming him for it because politics is politics and politicians will always exploit such incidents to benefit themselves", he says.

    While Democratic candidates are advocating tougher approach to the firearms fatality problem, Sleboda notes that the gun control issue is rather tricky, especially amid a presidential race. Although campaigning on saner “tougher gun control laws” seems to be "the right thing", it has always led to a dismal failure for Democratic presidential candidates, he underscores, citing US history.

    "If the Democrats decide to make gun control a presidential campaign issue once again, it will more than likely hurt them," Sleboda foresees.

    © AP Photo / Evan Vucci
    President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

    Russiagate 2.0: 'Democrats are Desperate to blame Trump for Something'

    Vladimir Golstein, associate professor at Rhode Island-based Brown University, suggests that the anti-Trump rhetoric and racism accusations over El Paso and Dayton mass shootings are part of a broader struggle between the president and the Democratic Party that has been going on from day one of Trump's presidency.

    According to the professor, the Democrats might be disappointed with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s commission that found no "collusion" between the Trump presidential campaign and Moscow.

    Over the past few years Democratic lawmakers and left-leaning US MSM have propagated the Trump-Russia narrative citing Mueller's inquiry. However, the special counsel's July testimony on the so-called "Russiagate" did not provide the Democratic camp with enough reasons to start impeachment hearings against Trump.

    "There is no doubt in my mind that the recent 'racist' hysteria is a Russian Gate II", the American academic suggests. "It is simply an attempt to score some political points. Trump is hardly a president who is qualified to take on the issues that face the US. His tweets are provocative and in bad taste. But blaming him for everything that is happening in the US is nothing but a sign of Democrats’ exasperation".

    Having said that shooting attacks occur quite regularly in the US, the professor highlights that "there are… systemic and structural problems in the United States that leave plenty of people unhappy, frustrated, and angry."

    "The US has to undertake a massive re-organisation that would address economic, social and political issues that it faces", he says. "Or it can toughen the gun laws, by banning or drastically limiting access to the assault weapons."

    Golstein believes that "without any of these two solutions, shooting sprees would continue with our without Trump’s rhetoric," targeting "anyone, progressive or conservative, a tourist or a citizen." 

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

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    gun control, guns, firearms, Ohio, Texas, shooting, Donald Trump, US
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