America knows becoming a huge battlefield. Increasingly frequent mass murders transform clichés such as shopping malls and schools into veritable war zones, under the unwatchful eyes of the gun lobby and politicians.
Yesterday was the latest shooting in a shopping center in Texas, with 8 dead. The 199th mass shooting of the year, and we are just at the beginning of May. The pace at which these tragedies are unfolding is staggering, with the number of gun deaths in 2023 likely to approach that of US soldiers killed in Vietnam in nearly a decade.
The political answer: prayers and inertia
Instead of taking concrete steps to address the problem, many politicians prefer to offer prayers and empty words. Republican Congressman Keith Self, for example: after the shooting in Texas said that "everything is in God's hands and there is nothing we can do about it". Even the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, is limited to expressing solidarity and to speak of "inexplicable tragedy", without proposing concrete solutions. But are we sure? Is the situation really inexplicable? And is it in the hands of God or of men? You do.
Meanwhile, the gun lobby continues to thrive, and companies continue to produce ever more lethal weapons. Last year, the Sig Sauer MCX Spear, a "civilian" version of the new XM7 US Army rifle. This weapon, which costs $4.200, has twice the power of an AR-15 and is capable of piercing materials such as Kevlar. You pay for it, you pick it up, you take it home. For freedom.
Powerful lobby, armed and defenseless society
The sad picture has been emerging for quite a while, but it presents itself in all its evidence several times a month now. The ingredients of degradation are all there: a lobby that "blesses" weapons capable of inflicting death and destruction in an even more violent way, politicians who hide behind empty speeches and the normalization of terror. Where? Everywhere. Mainly, in schools and shopping malls.
In 2021, Texas passed a law which allows Texans to carry guns in public without a permit or the license required by a permit, and another law which prohibits theater agencies and local governments from enforcing new federal gun rules (you read that right: it FORBIDDEN to enforce rules). They call it "freedom". Under these conditions, the freedom advocated for guns seems to be just an illusion.
On the contrary, we are faced with a situation where every trip to the mall or every school day carries a significant risk to people's safety and life. The gun lobby and US politics almost seem to accept this scenario as a mechanism of social control. They want a country where living in constant fear is the norm, not the exception.
Forbidden to surrender
There is an upside. There are many citizens, activists and politicians working to push for stricter gun control legislation and to raise public awareness of the issue. What's on the table? Always the same, for a long time.
- More in-depth checks of gun buyers, with a focus on criminal backgrounds and mental health.
- Limit the sale of high-capacity firearms and ammunition, often featured in mass shootings.
- Strengthen gun safe storage laws to reduce the risk of unauthorized access and home accidents.
- Voluntary arms transfer programs, to reduce the number of weapons in circulation.
- Investments in research and development of firearm safety technologies, such as "smart weapons" which can only be used by the owners.
All measures which, from the point of view of a European, are not decisive. Yet, if properly adopted and enforced, they could help significantly reduce the number of shootings and gun deaths in the United States. The fact remains, however, that it is necessary to break the vicious circle between lobbying and politics. Citizens must unite to demand concrete and immediate action, and they must do so resolutely.
Until there is a real collective reaction, fear will be the daily companion of Americans, and mass shootings will remain the tragic, inhuman, unacceptable normality.