By Arab News
By Dalia Al-Aqidi *
While the world is preoccupied with the consequences of the war in Ukraine, high fuel prices, food shortages and health scares, shocking news came out of the US on May 14. An 18-year-old man stormed an elementary school and opened fire on young students, killing 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. Robb Elementary School thus became the 27th educational institution to experience mass shootings since the beginning of 2022.
Less than three weeks later, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, another man entered a physician’s office on a hospital campus in the afternoon and shot dead four people before fatally shooting himself. A mass shooting is any incident in which four or more people are shot and killed, excluding the shooter. According to the nonprofit organization Gun Violence Archive, the tragic massacre became the nation’s 233rd mass shooting this year.
A wave of outrage swept America and there were immediate demands that the White House and Congress take measures to protect citizens, and children in particular, from these heinous crimes. Other countries around the globe look with amazement and horror at the spread of this phenomenon in the most powerful country in the world.
Speaking from the White House on Thursday, US President Joe Biden called for stricter gun control laws. “Strengthen background checks. Enact safe storage laws and red-flag laws. Repeal the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability. Address the mental health crisis deepening the trauma of gun violence and as a consequence of that violence,” Biden said. He emphasized the importance of putting a ban on assault weapons, and he understands that such a bill can never pass the evenly divided US Senate. However, the president offered an alternative solution by raising the age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21 if lawmakers cannot agree on an outright ban on those firearms.
An assault weapon is a high-powered semi-automatic firearm designed to fire rounds at a very high speed. A shooter could fire a devastating number of rounds over a short period if the weapon is combined with high-capacity magazines, which raises the number of victims and the number of their wounds.
Republican lawmakers were unhappy about what the president had to say, accusing the left-wing Democrats of dragging the country into a more extensive division. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas described the elementary school mass shooting in his state as horrific. “Anyone with any heartbeat is horrified that 19 little boys and girls and two teachers were murdered and what do Joe Biden and the Democrats do? They don’t come back and say let’s unite behind law enforcement to stop criminals to keep our kids safe. No, they immediately demagogue and say the solution is to take away your weapons. The solution is to disarm law-abiding citizens,” he said.
One of the most significant sources of disagreement between Republicans and Democrats is the US Constitution’s Second Amendment, which protects the citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. “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,” the Second Amendment reads.
Although Biden has expressed his respect for the culture, the tradition, and the concerns of lawful gun owners, he stressed that the Second Amendment, “like all other rights,” is not absolute, which is an agreed-upon statement by the vast majority of the legal community. However, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo highlighted to Fox News that some of the measures that the president is calling for might run afoul of the Second Amendment.
“Changing the age throughout the whole country for gun ownership might run into a Second Amendment problem. Banning certain kinds of weapons which are themselves not military in nature — for example, an AR15 looks like a military gun but is not really any different than a long hunting rifle — might run afoul of the Second Amendment,” Yoo said.
After every gruesome mass shooting in America, the gun laws debate surfaces again and continues to divide most US legislators and their constituents. There is a vital need for bipartisan talks to build trust between the two parties and find a middle ground that would prevent the majority of these attacks while improving the safety and security of American citizens and residents.
Gun violence has become the norm on the streets of America today, but it cannot be discussed without focusing on the increasingly high crime and the far-left war on law enforcement. When there is no law and order in US cities, people must defend themselves, their properties, and their families. If gang members and criminals are roaming the streets with illegal guns, what can stricter laws achieve? Laws are only effective when they are enforced.
Providing a safe and healthy environment for the public should not be an electoral issue. Instead, the Biden administration should focus on strengthening law enforcement and provide better training programs to combat the crime wave. Background checks need to be expanded to include mental health and substance-use issues that have become part of American households.
- Dalia Al-Aqidi is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy. Twitter: @DaliaAlAqidi