Shootings in US daily but gun control has become more lax

A video grab from a Walmart store shows Mario Valencia holding a rifle as an employee reaches for it in the Walmart store in Arizona on Feb 19. He would later go on to be charged with robbing a convenience store, breaking into a church, invading a ho
A video grab from a Walmart store shows Mario Valencia holding a rifle as an employee reaches for it in the Walmart store in Arizona on Feb 19. He would later go on to be charged with robbing a convenience store, breaking into a church, invading a home, stealing a car and stealing a rifle from Walmart.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Obama reiterates frustration at being unable to tighten rules even after horrific killings

CHICAGO • With mass shootings seemingly on a daily basis, it appears no place in the United States is safe: not churches, not schools, not even the morning newscast.

The shocking on-air murder of reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, by a disgruntled former colleague on Wednesday has once again renewed calls for stricter gun controls. But that is simply not going to happen, experts said, and the trend in recent years has actually gone in the opposite direction.

"You can't get rid of them," said Dr Harry Wilson, a professor at Roanoke College in Virginia.

The government can still impose some restrictions, such as prohibiting convicted criminals and the mentally ill from owning guns and requiring background checks.

But the political climate has led to a drastic loosening of gun controls in recent years, despite the many calls to the contrary following a series of horrific mass shootings.

HEARTBREAKING

What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

President Barack Obama said last month that his failure to tighten gun laws was the greatest source of frustration during his time in office. After Wednesday's shooting, he again expressed his frustration, saying the US needs to ensure that "people who have problems, people who shouldn't have guns, don't have them".

"It breaks my heart every time you read or hear about these kinds of incidents," Mr Obama said on Wednesday. "What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism."

The father of Ms Parker called US lawmakers "cowards" on Thursday and vowed to fight for gun control.

Saying his daughter's death had left him heartbroken, he made an impassioned plea for change.

"There has to be a way to force politicians... to come to grips and make sense - have sensible laws so that crazy people can't get guns," he told CNN. "It's senseless that her life and Adam's life were taken by a crazy person with a gun."

The disgruntled former colleague who killed them appeared to pass Virginia's purchase eligibility test and legally bought his gun, said ABC News, despite his former employer's suggestion that he seek medical attention.

"We've not seen any movement on national gun law changes in recent years because of the Republican party's ascendance at the national level and also because the gun lobby is very effective politically at mobilising their supporters," said Professor Robert Spitzer from the State University of New York at Cortland. "Also, the gun lobby has been fairly effective at advancing its message that gun laws don't really matter."

In surveys conducted by the Pew Research Centre, about a third of Americans said it was more important to protect gun rights than to control guns. That jumped up to 50 per cent in July. And random acts of violence can actually serve to reinforce support for gun rights. "The perception in the minds of some people is, 'This is going to keep happening and maybe I need to arm myself'," said sociology professor Jim Taylor from Ohio University.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'Shootings in US daily but gun control has become more lax'. Print Edition | Subscribe