Another mass shooting in America on the back of two appalling incidents of police shootings. The old refrains will play out. There will be a call to prayer and the gun lobby, if anyone dares suggests guns are a problem, will say people are the problem not firearms.
Let’s put aside the burning racial issue for a moment and look at the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota. Guns and the fear of their use lies at the heart of both killings and will be the reason both the police officers who fired the fatal shots will not be found guilty of manslaughter or murder. Let’s not be coy about either shooting, both were gross examples of police violence and paranoia, of flawed procedure and were a clear misuse of police firearms. Nevertheless the culture of guns and the fear of the harm that they can bring when turned against people will ensure these police are not prosecuted.
Alton Sterling was shot after police responded to a 911 call that reported Sterling as being in possession of a gun. One of two videos seems to bear out that he was indeed in possession of a gun though he never made any apparent attempt to use it.
Philanda Castile was carrying a licensed weapon and it was possibly the announcement of that fact to the policeman who approached him that triggered the atrocious panicked response that led to Castile’s death.
It was the suspected and known presence of guns that escalated both incidents into the fatal situations they became. Neither Sterling or Castille should have been killed. Better and more prudent police officers may have handled the situations more calmly but the presence of those weapons will provide sufficient doubt for any official inquiry or jury, should it come to that, that those officers could not be blamed for acting as they did.
Cut to Dallas where a sniper, in a free gun carrying state, armed with a military assault rifle ambushed and killed five policemen. Here surely is an unequivocal argument as to why civilians ought not to be allowed to own assault rifles let alone carry them about publicly.
American politicians clearly do not have the stomach to bring about gun reform in both setting controls on the ownership of guns and of the type of guns people can have access to. Too many are clearly in the pockets of the NRA and Walmart and I daresay a good many fear for their own personal safety in what would be a volatile debate if legislation was ever put forward.
Only a grass roots campaign mounted by the people to say they have had enough will have any hope of pushing politicians to draft appropriate measures and giving them the courage needed to stand up to the gun lobby. It is time for mass movements such as Grandmothers Against Guns; Mothers Against Murder; Fathers Against Firearms.
Sadly I don’t hold out much hope of any such demonstration. I recently watched a documentary on the aftermath and legacy of the Sandy Hook shootings. In it the father of one of the children killed was asked about gun control. He expressed a startling ambivalence about whether people should be allowed to own assault rifles. One can only hope the families of the five slain policemen adopt a more aggressive anti-gun position that might sow the seed for public outrage and reform.
One thing is clear. When it comes to firearms, America, you do have a problem.