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Last Saturday The Washington Post carried a highly provocative opinion article by Charlotte and Harriet Childress who pointed out the fact that “nearly all the mass shootings” in the US “have been committed by white men and boys.”
When the authors spoke of “white men and boys” they meant those raised in the “American way.” The incidents they mentioned were Columbine, Tuscon, Aurora, Newtown and Fort Hood.
The Columbine shootings were carried out by two white youths, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 12 fellow students and wounded 21, in April 1999. In response to the event, the authorities examined the influence of the gun culture, bullying, high school cliques, violent video games and the wide use of anti-depressants by teenagers.
The 2011 Tuscon attack which killed six and wounded 18, including a US congresswoman, was carried out by Jared Loughner, who had dropped out of a community college and was found to be a paranoid schizophrenic.
The shootings in Aurora, Colorado, were, allegedly, carried out by James Eagan Holmes, a drop-out doctorate candidate, who wore black clothing, a gas mask, and a helmet. He killed 12 people and wounded 58 during the screening of the latest Batman film. He has also been examined for aberrant behaviour.
The December 2012 shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, were perpetrated by Adam Lanza, a mildly autistic young man of 20, who killed 20 elementary schoolchildren, six staff members, and his mother.
It was a mistake to include the 2009 Fort Hood event which was perpetrated by Major Nidal Hassan who killed 13 fellow soldiers at a military base. Civilians were not involved and Hassan was a disturbed man of Palestinian parentage who may have believed he was striking a blow against Washington for its terrible treatment of Palestinians and its disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when he mounted his shooting spree. He simply did not fit into the category cited by the authors of this article due to the targets of his assault and his background.
While the four other incidents and a host of similar events have been widely condemned and the US public has called for tighter gun controls, the US Senate — where President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party holds the majority — has just postponed action on a law prohibiting the sale of assault weapons and other gun control measures.
By contrast the Maryland legislature has adopted two key provisions on gun control, including licensing of handguns, a ban on the sale of assault weapons, and restrictions on magazines to ten bullets.
Colorado has also adopted laws that require background checks on purchasers of weapons for which customers are charged and a limit on the number of bullets in magazines. However, a ban on guns on college campuses was not proposed because it would not have been adopted.
The authors of The Post article point out that even though the white men and boys involved in these incidents may have had mental health problems, women and girls, Hispanic men and boys, Afro-American men and boys, and Asian men and boys with similar problems “are not continually killing groups of strangers.”
“A Guide to Mass Shootings in America” compiled for Mother Jones by Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen and Deanna Pan shows that since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass shootings in 30 states in the US. Twenty-five of these incidents have taken place since 2006 and seven in 2012, indicating that they are becoming more frequent.
Of the 143 weapons — semi-automatic handguns and assault weapons with magazines containing large numbers of bullets — used by the killers, three-quarters were bought legally. More than 50 per cent of the incidents involved school or workplace shootings while the others took place at religious institutions, government buildings and shopping malls. Forty-four of the perpetrators were white males, aged between 11 and 35. Only one was a woman, two were of Asian extraction and one was Nidal Hassan, who, as I explained earlier, does not fit.
The most controversial paragraph in the Post article says that all citizens of the US are “programmed from childhood to believe that the top group of our hierarchies [white men] represents everyone, so it can feel awkward, even ridiculous, when we try to call attention to those people and hold them accountable.”
The writers also ask a series of probing questions, including what aspects of white male culture produce shootings; why are white males attracted to violent video games and media; why are white males disproportionately involved in the sale, manufacture of weapons, and culture of guns; and why are white male legislators not “leading the fight against gun control?”
I cannot answer the first three questions and those who try to do so could run into major interference from ruling “white males.”
But the answer to the last question is that the white-male-dominated National Rifle Association (NRA), the most powerful of Washington’s powerful political lobbies, has nearly five million members out of the 100 million US gun owners. Politicians are simply as afraid to touch the gun lobby and tackle mass shootings or gun crime of any type as they are the pro-Israel lobby.
The NRA takes the line that guns do not kill people, people do and gun ownership should not take a hit if disturbed individuals get hold of guns and run amok.
NRA spokesmen try to lay the blame totally on US “mental health” problems. This is another issue that families, communities, states and the federal government fail to address, claiming there is not enough money in the coffers of the richest country in the world to deal with these problems.
The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East
affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict