Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, returned to classes Wednesday for the first time since the February 14 mass shooting that claimed 17 lives. It was the eighth such shooting resulting in injury or death during the first seven weeks of the year. At the same time, President Donald Trump met with lawmakers at the White House to discuss gun legislation.
On Tuesday, Republican leaders in Congress rejected calls for tighter gun restrictions. House Speaker Paul Ryan (Republican-Wisconsin) said Republicans would focus on law enforcement failures, not tighter gun control. Ryaan supports Trump’s call to arm teachers, but not at the federal level. Others have dismissed another Trump proposal: raising the legal age for purchasing semiautomatic guns from 18 to 21.
Shortly after the Parkland attack by Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, Trump said he considered arming teachers a deterrent against school shootings. “It only works when you have people very adept at using firearms, of which you have many. It would be teachers and coaches,” the president said.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten blasted the idea: “Teachers don’t want to be armed, we want to teach,” she said. Half of U.S. citizens are opposed to arming teachers, while 44 percent are in favor of the plan, a new CBS News poll reveals.
Friends and relatives said Cruz had a long history of violent outbursts. The shooter had been diagnosed with depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and autism.
Trump suggests that at least 20 percent of teachers should get special weapons training, so they can include “shoots to kill” under the ‘special skills’ section of their resumes. Former CIA agent John Kiriakou, however, told teleSUR that the gun problem in the United States is not the result of unarmed teachers: “It is the result of freely available, military style weapons and an almost complete absence of mental healthcare,” Kiriakou said.
Meanwhile, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are proposing drastic spending cuts to public education, including a US$7.1 billion – or 10.5 percent decrease – for 2019.
Emery Wright, co-director of Project South, told teleSUR: “This administration is no more interested in stopping gun violence in terms of school shootings than it is in intervening in the epidemic of gun violence that is playing out on the streets of our neighborhoods across the country.”
On February 22, Dick’s Sporting Goods, the largest sporting goods retailer in the United States, announced in an open letter that it is banning sales of assault weapons across its stores. “As we looked at what happened down in Parkland, we were so disturbed and saddened by what happened, we felt we really needed to do something,” CEO Ed Stack told Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday.
Guns: God’s Gift to U.S. Citizens?
That same day, National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre said in a speech to Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC): “There is no greater personal individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms… It’s not bestowed by man, but granted by God.”
In December 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adult staff members. Immediately after the attack, LaPierre said: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
The FBI was warned about a YouTube post last September, by a user named Nikolas Cruz, which said: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”
As many as 27 of the 160 mass-shooting incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013 took place in schools, according to a report by the FBI and Texas State University. Broward County deputies received at least 18 calls warning them about Nikolas Cruz from 2008 to 2017, including concerns that he “planned to shoot up the school” and other threats and acts of violence before he was accused of killing 17 people at his former high school.
In 2017, there were 346 mass shootings in the United States and 15,594 people were killed by guns, according to GunViolenceArchive.org. In 2018, the number of gun-related deaths up to February 28 was 2,322, with 35 mass shootings. In 2015, The Washington Post concluded there are now more guns than people in the United States: the number of firearms nationwide was then estimated at 357 million, while the country’s population stood at 317 million.
A recent Pew Research study depicts the United States’ deep and enduring connection to guns: “44 percent of U.S. adults say they personally know someone who has been shot, either accidentally or intentionally, and about a quarter (23 percent) say they or someone in their family have been threatened or intimidated by someone using a gun.
“Men who grew up in a household with guns and who have ever shot a gun report that they first fired a gun when they were, on average, 12 years old. Among women who grew up in gun-owning households and who have ever shot a gun, the average age at which they first fired a gun is 17.”
The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote in August 2015: “More Americans have died from guns since 1968 than in all the wars in U.S. history. Since 1968, when these figures were first collected, there have been 1,516,863 gun-related deaths on U.S. territory. Since the founding of the United States, there have been 1,396,733 war deaths.”
Sixty-five percent of U.S. citizens say gun laws should be stricter. After the Parkland shooting, people have called for greater gun controls, but the offensive of the NRA has been calling those people “opportunists.”
Those opposing gun control in the United States base their ideas on the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which states: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
U.S. historian and author Peter Kuznick told teleSUR: “That is absurd. The Founding Fathers didn’t have or conceive of assault rifles. They didn’t say that everyone has a right to own his or her own canon. These gun owners are not members of a ‘well-regulated militia.'”
Kuznick, who is also director of Nuclear Studies at the American University in Washington D.C., continues: “The overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens want much stronger gun laws, but the zealots and the gun manufacturers who finance and run the National Rifle Association have succeeded in using their money and influence to elect enough politicians to defy the will of the people.
“They have corrupted American politics, but I think that is coming to an end. The high-school students from Parkland, Florida, are leading a fascinating and inspiring movement that has galvanized Americans in a way I haven’t seen since the 1960s, when the youth were the moral force in American society.
“America’s obsession with guns is a deeply rooted psychosis. There are approximately 100 people killed every day by guns. Most of them, apparently, are suicides. Nothing like this occurs in other countries where guns aren’t so readily available.”
Guns: A US Obsession
So why do so many US citizens fall victim to guns and mass shootings? Venezuela-born sociologist Maria Paez Victor told teleSUR: “I link U.S. gun violence and Trump reaction to U.S. foreign policy. As they have treated other countries, now that poison is inside their own boundaries and people.”
Some facts reinforce Victor’s views about the Washington regime. The world’s most powerful president violates international laws and even the U.S. Constitution; engaged in a failed ‘War on Terror,’ and supports the Zionist massacre against Palestinians. From 1846, when the United States invaded Mexico, to the intervention in Colombia in 2000, there were 47 direct U.S. military interventions in Latin America.
The U.S. police state currently violates, as never before in history, civil liberties: the state reserves the right to invade homes, to control any citizen’s access to the Internet, to wiretap in addition to practicing espionage, torture and interrogating suspected terrorists, without giving them the right to a defense.
A truculent prison system houses the largest prison population on the planet, accounting for 25 percent of all the detainees in the world. Year after year, the U.S. police and justice system have been warned by human rights groups, not only for acts of torture and other inhumanities against prisoners, but also for discrimination against Black and Latin American communities.
Meanwhile, the United States remains the world’s largest consumer of drugs: the CIA long ago traced drug smuggling from Afghanistan to U.S. territory.
According to The Christian Science Monitor, in 2012 the profits for gunmakers and retailers hit US$31.8 billion. This year, gun and ammunition stores will reap revenues of US$85 billion and profits of $256 million, according to IbisWorld.com. In 2017, the NRA spent at least US$4.1 million on lobbying – more than the US$3.1 million it spent in 2016.
Every year, more than 50 pecent of the U.S. budget is spent on defense: the United States spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined (China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan). In the 2018 fiscal year, a total of US$700 billion will be spent on defense.
According to Wright, of Project South: “The Trump administration interest has been and continues to be in building a lawless, anti-democratic path of division and violence for the purpose of advancing Wall Street, at the expense of everyday people.”
As Victor says: “The NRA gives millions of dollars to politicians, including the president, and the military industrial complex, which Eisenhower warned about, has a fierce hold on government and industry.”
U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961) warned in his farewell speech about “the immense military establishment” that had joined with “a large arms industry”: a threat to democracy and safety, he said.