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Monday 23 April 2018
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Las Vegas and the guns of America

The Las Vegas Massacre: Gun Violence in the United States
By Oluwole Sheriff Olusanya

 

In the evening of Monday, October 2nd, I was in bed reading a book titled; “Possessed,” written by a former governorship aspirant in Lagos state, Olasupo Shasore SAN when I received a message from my younger brother on WhatsApp. I followed the link and could not believe what had happened in Las Vegas the previous day.

 

At least 59 people had been killed and 527 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. The victims so far identified included an off-duty Las Vegas policeman, a San Diego lawyer, and three Canadians. Police have named Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retired accountant from Mesquite, Nevada, as the gunman. Police found an arsenal of 42 firearms, explosives and thousands of ammunition rounds in both his Las Vegas hotel room and Mesquite home. Experts believe an accessory known as a bump-stock was probably used in the attack. It modifies a semi-automatic weapon to fire at an automatic rate. There is still no known motive behind the attack, or any known links between Paddock and other organisations. The suspect’s girlfriend was named as a person of interest, but police said he acted alone and that authorities would interview the woman after she returned from a trip to Tokyo.

 

Survivors of previous mass shootings and late-night chat show hosts have expressed outrage at the inability of US politicians to control guns and stand up to the powerful National Rifle Association. Theresa May said the UK could not understand US gun laws. Donald Trump has deferred questions about gun control saying, “We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.” Speaking to reporters he described Paddock as “very sick” and “demented”. (Source: Google.com)

 

Gun Violence in the United States

Gun violence in the United States results in tens of thousands of deaths and injuries annually. In 2013, there were 73,505 nonfatal firearm injuries (23.2 injuries per 100,000 U.S. citizens), and 33,636 deaths due to “injury by firearms” (10.6 deaths per 100,000 U.S. citizens). These deaths consisted of 11,208 homicides, 21,175 suicides, 505 deaths due to accidental or negligent discharge of a firearm, and 281 deaths due to firearms use with “undetermined intent”. Of the 2,596,993 total deaths in the US in 2013, 1.3% were related to firearms. The ownership and control of guns are among the most widely debated issues in the country. In 2010, 67% of all homicides in the U.S. were committed using a firearm. In 2012, there were 8,855 total firearm-related homicides in the US, with 6,371 of those attributed to handguns. In 2012, 64% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides. In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicides, and 11,078 firearm-related homicides in the U.S. In 2010, 358 murders were reported involving a rifle while 6,009 were reported involving a handgun; another 1,939 were reported with an unspecified type of firearm.

 

Firearms were used to kill 13,286 people in the U.S. in 2015, excluding suicide. Approximately 1.4 million people have been killed using firearms in the U.S. between 1968 and 2011, equivalent to a top 10 largest U.S. city in 2016, falling between the populations of San Antonio and Dallas, Texas. In 2010, gun violence cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $516 million in direct hospital costs. Gun violence is most common in poor urban areas and frequently associated with gang violence, often involving male juveniles or young adult males. Although mass shootings have been covered extensively in the media, mass shootings account for a small fraction of gun-related deaths and the frequency of these events steadily declined between 1994 and 2007, rising between 2007 and 2013.

 

Legislation at the federal, state, and local levels has attempted to address gun violence through a variety of methods, including restricting firearms purchases by youths and other “at-risk” populations, setting waiting periods for firearm purchases, establishing gun buyback programs, law enforcement and policing strategies, stiff sentencing of gun law violators, education programs for parents and children, and community-outreach programs. Despite widespread concern about the impacts of gun violence on public health, Congress has prohibited the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) from conducting research that advocates in favour of gun control. The CDC has interpreted this ban to extend to all research on gun violence prevention, and so has not funded any research on this subject since 1996. (Source: Gun violence in the United States – Wikipedia.com)

 

BARRIERS TO OVERCOME

Despite the elevation of the problem of gun violence in the media and public discourse (often prompted by mass shooting instances) and increased attention on the dearth of research on firearms, political barriers continue to stand in the way of funding nothing has been produced by the CDC since it was instructed to resume support for gun research.

These political barriers to federal funding seem to also extend and influence private foundations and non-profits, as Hemenway pointed out when discussing the difficulty of getting questions related to guns on private surveys. There is less than a handful of “brave” foundations, he said, that are quietly providing some funding, but many other foundations could do so and are not. “I think they are afraid they have a board member who might be a member of the National Rifle Association who would say, ‘We don’t want this controversy,’” he said.

The bottom line, Leshner said, is that we know without question that we need a public health strategy to tackle gun violence, and we know that we currently don’t have adequate science upon which to base that strategy, to ensure that it is founded on more than just intuition or a belief system. “We know what research needs to be done, but nobody seems to want to make the investment necessary to approach this set of problems.” (Source: ‘ideology, intuition, common sense’ w/ #PublicHealth approach to #GunViolence: http://bit.ly/PreventGunViolence @phidotorg)

 

Conclusively, “Over the last 24 hrs I have gone through lots of emotions. Scared, Anger, Heartache, Compassion and many others. I truly don’t understand why a person would want to take the life of another. Something has changed in this country and in this world lately that is scary to see. This world is becoming the kind of place I am afraid to raise my children in. At the end of the day we aren’t Democrats or Republicans, Whites or Blacks, Men or Women. We are all humans and we are all Americans and it’s time to start acting like it and stand together as ONE! That is the only way we will ever get this country to be better than it has ever been, but we have a long way to go and we must start now. My heart aches for the Victims and their families of this senseless act. I am so sorry for the hurt and pain everyone is feeling right now and there are no words I can say to take that pain away. Just know you all are in my heart and my prayers as we all go through this together. Time to come together and stop the hate!” – Jason Aldean, the country music singer who was performing at the time of the attack.

 

American President, Donald Trump

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