• Tue
  • Nov 25, 2014
  • Updated: 1:34am
CommentInsight & Opinion
LEADER

How many deaths will it take before US passes gun laws?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 7:38am

American politicians are generally as sensitive as any to public sentiment. So what does it take to persuade most of them to fall in step with polls that show broad public support for tougher gun laws? With due respect to the 12 victims, it seems unlikely that the latest shooting outrage in the Washington Navy Yard will make a difference. If the slaughter of 20 first-graders and six staff members at a Connecticut elementary school last December were not enough to stiffen their spines against political threats from the gun-owners' lobby, it is hard to know what would be.

The latest tragedy has reignited the gun-control debate. Though this may again be futile, it prompts the question whether measures proposed earlier this year would have made any difference. They would have controlled automatic assault weapons - one of the guns used in the latest massacre - and online sales, and expanded background checks to stop the sale of guns to criminals and the mentally ill.

There was one positive in the background of gunman Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old IT employee of a defence contractor who was killed in a gun battle with police. He was a convert to Buddhism, which teaches peace, love, kindness and wisdom. But there were also contacts with law enforcement over shooting incidents, police references to anger management issues, and treatment for mental issues after service as an electrician's mate in the navy reserve.

If President Barack Obama had succeeded in getting gun control legislation passed, a background like that might have warranted closer scrutiny before the sale of weapons.

Had atrocities like those in Washington and Connecticut been committed against Americans on foreign soil, outrage would have outweighed the right to bear arms. Perhaps this is an opportunity to narrow the double standards. Last April a majority in the US Senate supported expanded background checks, but not the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural obstacles for further progress. It may be worth another try.

Share

More on this story

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
7

This article is now closed to comments

ejmciii
The US does have gun laws. Every state has gun laws and in many states those laws are rather strict as the people in those states believe restrictions on gun ownership are justified. Other states do not take as strict a position. Connecticut for example has very strict gun laws, requiring registration and background checks. So does Maryland. New York has some of the most strict laws and still has more gun violence than most others. In many states there are mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed with a gun. Murder and assault are illegal in every state. The US Constitution, however, leaves the regulation of guns to the states, not the Federal Government and contains an outright prohibition on the government seeking to stop gun ownership. If the people want to change the constitution, they can do it. There is a procedure that assures that significant majorities at the federal and state levels agree.
Remitting Prosperity
So there are state gun laws. But if all I have to do is cross to the next state to buy a gun, then they are not worth much are they?
This is a US fetish- some of them seriously think that owning guns is all that stands between them and some terrible tyranny. No other country feels like this.
lister038
Neither the people of Hong Kong nor those of mainland China can even begin to understand the foundations of Western nations,of Western democracy and liberty.I would encourage the editorial staff of the SCMP to stick to things they understand...like political and social issues in the SAR and in the Mainland.
likingming
People self-determination. Rule BY the people !
captam
The solution is simple. The President declares that the NRA is a terrorist organization.
He can then set the drones on the NRA HQ and their gun clubs and eliminate their leaders
johnyuan
There is no double standard yet. I have not heard US imposes a foreign country from bearing arms because of atrocities committed to Americans on foreign soil as conjectured by the editorial. On the contrary, US would rather at least take a neutral position due to its own Constitution that citizens have the right to bear arm. We must not be confused between guns and mass destruction weapons of which the latter not only US but other countries do actively upholding a standard of non-proliferation.
….
The question about ‘how many deaths will it take before US passes gun laws?’ is both eerie and incomprehensive of American history. The editorial should have dug deeper for the writing and not captioned it in such irrelevant question perhaps particularly to the world outside of US.The editorial is only being sentimental and thinly veiled criticism of things American.
chaz_hen
As long as politicians in America are bought, owned by and beholden to special interests and not accountable to their own constituents, I would say there will never be enough deaths by gunfire in the US to cause change.

Login

SCMP.com Account

or