Last month, the United States witnessed the worst mass shooting in the nation's modern history when Stephen Paddock opened fire on concertgoers in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more. This week, another deranged killer added 26 more victims to the escalating death toll of Americans whose lives have been destroyed by gun violence. Devin Patrick Kelley, whose rampage through a tiny Texas church has left a close-knit community bereft, should not even have been able to get his hands on a gun. With convictions for assault - including one for fracturing his baby stepson's skull - he should have been barred from buying weapons. Yet in the US, he was judged fit to procure arms and posed with a rifle on Facebook with chilling casualness, just a month before his killing spree.
That such a man was able to buy weapons is yet more evidence they are easily available, despite claims to the contrary. What is even more dismaying is the refusal by legislators to accept such easy access to weapons contributes to gun violence in the US. Donald Trump swiftly dismissed the idea that tougher gun laws might have protected the victims of the Sutherland Springs massacre, mostly women and children. But he is not solely to blame when none of his predecessors managed to take on the all-powerful gun lobby.
The National Rifle Association is one of the most influential lobby groups in the US with a reported $250 million annual budget, more than all the country's gun control groups put together. They argue guns make people safer - yet more Americans have been killed in gun-related violence in the past half-century than in all the wars the US has ever fought. Texas' attorney general followed the massacre by warning churchgoers to arm themselves as a solution. It was likely to happen again, argued Ken Paxton, so arming parishioners would ensure a gun-toter was "taken out" before killing too many people. A world where people have become inured to violence, or think tackling it head-on with more violence, cannot be the only option. With more than 300 mass shootings this year alone, there has to be an argument for a different approach. The question is whether America is ready for that battle.
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