Saturday 24 August 2019

Editorial: 'Right to bear arms is taking precedence over right to live'

US President Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis
US President Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis


President Trump's vision to "make America great again" was not expected to include a litany of horrifying hate-fuelled violence yet it is becoming the leitmotif of his time in office.

Mr Trump has stood accused of sowing division and bigotry rather than helping to unite and heal.

His kowtowing to the gun lobby has made it difficult to mount a defence, especially when combined with his inability to tone down incendiary language.

This issue is, of course, far bigger than President Trump - somehow, mass-shootings have become routine in the US. Political paralysis in combating gun violence is astonishing given the scale and tragic toll it has taken on American society.

A ban on sales of military-style assault rifles, as well as high-capacity magazines, is still awaited.

Astonishingly, although the weaponry used in these murders was made for war, designed with the explicit purpose to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible, it is readily available to buy on American streets. The vital background checks needed to determine who can obtain a firearm have yet to be made mandatory. Solutions such as the need for federal licensing or mass buy-backs have yet to be realistically explored. In the immediate hours after the latest tragedies, President Trump remained out of sight at his New Jersey golf course. Americans did not glimpse the president in the immediate aftermath of the El Paso massacre.

Yesterday, in calling for "strong background checks" for gun purchases, he bizarrely insisted such a bill be tied to immigration reform. Needless to say, he gave no indication how or why such legislation might be paired. Linking immigration to the dark sickness of mass shootings sweeping the US is disingenuous. The victims and their families need much more from politicians on all sides.

Democrats have not been as strident as they might in standing up to gun lobbies - in many of the swing states needed to win the 2020 election, gun control is too divisive an issue to risk sticking one's neck out. Yesterday, Mr Trump blamed what he called "fake news" for stoking "anger and rage" in the wake of the two gun attacks which killed a total of 31 people, one of which is being treated as a case of domestic terrorism. Yet in recent weeks, he has issued racist tweets about four women of colour who serve in Congress, and at rallies he has spoken of an "invasion" at the southern border.

He can hardly deny his re-election strategy so far has placed racial animus at the forefront in an effort his aides say is designed to activate his base of conservative voters. It is an approach not seen by a US president in the modern era, and surely one in direct conflict with making America great. Yesterday he said: "We must have something good, if not great, come out of these two tragic events!"

If he is sincere, he need only exercise his executive powers to assert the constitutional right to bear arms ceases to take precedence over the right to live. Yet you wouldn't bet on it.

Irish Independent

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