Sunday 23 October 2016

Easy availability of guns is at the root of USA's mass shootings

Published 17/06/2016 | 02:30

A man grieves at a memorial site for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty
A man grieves at a memorial site for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty

Once again, we are in a period of mourning for innocent lives, this time in the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida - the latest gun massacre in the US.

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Once again, there are various reactions, much as before: genuine sorrow, politicians' promises, crocodile tears and much glee by gun dealers at the prospect of sales rocketing again at the threat of gun-control measures.

The main problem is the easy availability of guns. This is due to America's gun culture, which, historically, has been sustained by many groupings and interests: the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Power movement etc.

Of these, the NRA is the most prominent and challenging.

Its members regard themselves as "the tireless defenders" of the Second Amendment and somehow have enormous political and societal clout.

When confronted, their defence is as bamboozling as a maze: for example, a gun owner said on the radio lately that it is not the gun that is the problem, it is the bullets that cause the harm.

Another argument is that it is not the gun, it's the individual firing the gun that is the problem.

What the NRA is effectively saying is that widespread availability of guns is essential to rid the country of "bad" people, regardless of how many innocent lives it takes to do so.

When is all this slaughter going to stop? There are vested interests promoting gun culture and making vast fortunes as a result.

There is also a paranoia among residents, encouraged, no doubt, by the gun makers, causing them to buy weapons for personal safety.

On the other hand, it could be argued that "the home of the brave" is still only emerging from the Wild West period, where guns were an everyday fact of life.

The US is a relatively young conglomeration of states and maybe it has teething problems, which, perish the thought, could take hundreds of years to settle.

Europe was in a similar position for hundreds if not thousands of years, with disparate interests, groupings, clans etc. fighting among themselves and with outsiders before only recently settling down to a reasonably civilised state, without the gun. How long will it take to get over these growing pains in America?

Ted O'Keeffe

Ranelagh, Dublin 6


The Donald versus the press

In his latest act of petulance, 'The Donald' bars the "phoney and dishonest 'Washington Post'" from the rest of his attempt to become US president after accusing it of "incredibly inaccurate coverage and reporting of the record-setting Trump campaign" (Irish Independent, June 14).

This wonderful non sequitur immediately brings to mind any number of ironic soundbites, such as "the reflection in the mirror comforts the hypocrite" or my personal favourite, "the disqualifier disqualifies based on his own fault".

However, on a more serious note, as David Foster Wallace points out, "the great thing about irony is that it splits things apart, gets up above them so we can see the flaws and hypocrisies and duplicates".

If Trump's arrogant and outrageously selective choice of media coverage does nothing else, surely it indicates his utter contempt for the democratic process.

By barring the paper that exposed the corruption of Richard Nixon's presidency, Trump gives the middle finger to the First Amendment to the American Constitution. Amongst other guarantees, this enshrines "the freedom of speech, or of the press" to freely and publicly express the will of the people.

Just imagine how Trump will trample other freedoms if he wins.

Dr Kevin McCarthy

Kinsale, Co Cork


Councillors and PRSI

Niall O'Connor's piece (Irish Independent June 16) on Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar looking at councillors' PRSI payments shows little understanding of PRSI or local government.

The issue at hand here is category K PRSI, which is the social insurance payment made by councillors. For this payment, we are entitled to... nothing, nada, zilch.

It is a bone of contention for councillors and the minister is right to address it - either councillors continue to pay and receive benefits or we don't pay it.

The minister is simply considering putting councillors into the same PRSI bracket as, say, a self-employed journalist.

Cllr Malcolm Byrne (Fianna Fáil)

Gorey, Co Wexford


Captain Bob's Remain flotilla

Regarding the face-off between the Brexit and Remain flotillas on the Thames on Wednesday (Irish Independent, June 16), Bob Geldof is a much bigger loudmouth and is far more off-putting than Nigel Farage.

It appears that the Remain-friendly broadcast media see any attack on the Leave campaign as legitimate, while the Remain folk and the British government get a much easier ride.

And Geldof is neither English, Welsh, nor Scottish, so why doesn't he just butt out?

Oh, he's a typical Paddy, all right, trying to show he is more British than the British themselves.

Robert Sullivan

Bantry, Co Cork


Abortion and absurdity

Ivan Yates declares our abortion laws "absurd" (Irish Independent, June 16).

That may well be the case if you think the unborn child is not a human life; but if you do, then they are not only eminently sensible but essential to protect the fundamental rights of human beings at a very vulnerable stage of their development. The facts, I believe, are in favour of the latter position.

DNA testing shows that a new human individual, separate from that of his or her mother, comes into existence at the moment of conception and ultra-sound scans show that that life takes a recognisable human form only a few weeks of gestation on - and, of course, it is only after this point that most abortions take place.

Given this, it is not our laws that are absurd, but rather claims such as those made by Mr Yates.

Revd Patrick G Burke

Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny

Irish Independent

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