Last weekend, we had two mass shootings with a total death toll of 29. One of these shootings was in El Paso and is being judged a hate crime based on a manifesto posted by the shooter about 20 minutes before the incident. The shooter in El Paso, TX shot and killed 20 people in a Walmart used by Americans and Mexicans who cross over to shop. The other shooter killed 9 people in a popular club district at 1am on Sunday morning in Dayton, Ohio.
Anytime such shootings occur we hear the same words by those in power about mental health without any clear plan targeting the one common factor in all these mass shootings, assault style semi-automatic rifles. Another issue that gets raised sometimes is the issue of race. Majority of these mass shootings are perpetrated by young white males. While some of these shootings like El Paso shooting are racially based, this is not always the case.
Reports suggests that the shooter in Dayton was killed within a minute of his attack yet in 30 seconds he was able to kill 9 people. He was using an assault rifle with a high capacity magazine.
On considering this situation, I realized the problem was not mental illness, nor guns because most countries have guns and mental illness is not unique to the US. The real problem is that we do not have good leadership on this issue. Our leadership both prior and current have not been able to address the problem facing Americans without the interference of the gun lobby. It is clear that the gun lobby is more important to our leadership than the citizens.
I would like to go across the globe to New Zealand. On Friday March 15th, 2019 a hate filled man unleashed a deadly attack on 2 mosques in Christchurch New Zealand. The actions of that gunman killed 51 individuals with many more injured and threw this peaceful New Zealand community into mourning, pushing them on the world stage in a most inopportune manner.
Fortunately for our New Zealander friends their Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised to act to change gun laws in New Zealand. Subsequently the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Act 2019, was introduced in the House of Representatives in New Zealand on April 1st, 2019 and passed on its first reading the following day.
Many will talk about 2nd Amendment rights, well below are the exact words of the said Amendment;
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”.
In a 2008 case District of Columbia versus Heller, the Supreme Court ruled that the “Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
If one is to go by that interpretation there is no specific protection for the semi-automatic military style rifles used in last weekend’s killings.
As an American, I am tired of these senseless deaths. Our lawmakers must do their jobs and make the laws and regulations necessary to keep us safe. New Zealand was able to have a law in place in a month, we are in August and already have 251 mass shootings in 216 days across the country and all we have is an executive order banning bump stocks?
This is a complete joke, our leaders must act like leaders not NRA Stooges.
By Dr. Leonard Sowah an Internal Medicine Physician in Baltimore, Maryland