Forget terrorists – Americans are their own worst enemies

Yonden Lhatoo despairs at the same old debate every time there is a mass shooting in the US, before the country slips back into collective amnesia and apathy until the next tragedy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 October, 2017, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 October, 2017, 11:04pm

I must be something of a good ol’ American at heart because of a schoolboyish little foible that I never really grew out of – playing with firearms.

I enjoy a bit of target practice at shooting ranges when I visit a couple of countries where my friends in the military or police are willing to indulge me.

But that’s all there is to that. I would never point a gun at another person or fight for the right to carry one, knowing how downright dangerous and destructive they are. You’ll understand when you fire an assault rifle, or see what a single bullet can do to the human body.

There’s no question of doing it anyway in Hong Kong, and thank God for that. We’re so stressed out and on edge in this city that I shudder to think what would happen if we could buy guns, no questions asked, at any random Fortress or Sogo outlet.

But this is Hong Kong. It’s an entirely different story in the United States, by far the most violent among developed nations, where every citizen has a God-given and constitutionally protected right to bear firearms.

One of those entitled citizens this week perpetrated the worst mass shooting in modern American history, holing up in a high-rise Las Vegas hotel suite with an arsenal of assault weapons and raining down indiscriminate death on thousands of hapless revellers attending a country music festival. He killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more in a span of just 10 minutes.

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And once again, it’s triggered that same, endless old debate over gun control that never goes anywhere or achieves anything.

Here’s how the whole process works in America: do nothing to stop gun violence; make a whole lot of noise when there’s a mass shooting but take no action; go back to doing nothing about it until the next round of slaughter; rinse and repeat, ad nauseam.

Not to belittle the grief and trauma that the families of the victims go through after every horrific massacre like Vegas, but Americans themselves are tired of the same old song and dance, and so is the whole world.

The US has seen more than 270 mass shootings (defined as four or more people being shot) so far this year, which breaks down to an average of 7.5 a week. But they account for only 1.5 per cent of the 30,000 gun deaths in the country every year.

How do you stop the carnage in a country where there are more guns than people? More guns than cars, and more gun outlets than coffee shops. At the last count in 2014, it was more than 370 million firearms – and we’re only talking about registered ones.

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The right to bear firearms is inalienable for the majority of gun owners, and the incredibly influential National Rifle Association has plenty of politicians in its pocket to ensure nothing is ever done in Congress to mess with the status quo.

Yada, yada, yada, we’ve heard it all before, over and over again.

They all go on and on about Islamic terrorism, but for every life claimed by terrorists, more than 1,000 are killed by guns.

The fact is, Americans kill more Americans in the streets of Chicago alone in one year than foreign terrorists do across the country over more than a decade. They’re their own worst enemies.

Maybe it’s time to face the harsh reality and accept the inconvenient truth: gun violence is part and parcel of life in these United States of America. It comes with the territory. It is what it is.

And just like it barely makes news these days when a bomb goes off in Baghdad, that’s where the US is headed with mass shootings, amnesia and apathy.

If you’re still looking for solutions, a very astute American named Chris Rock proposed an interesting one back in 1999: “I think all bullets should cost US$5,000 … ‘cause if a bullet cost US$5,000 there would be no more innocent bystanders.”

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post