By Deepak Sinha
It will take all of us a great deal of time to come to terms with the shocking tragedy that hit Orlando like a Tsunami out of hell. There will be many, family and friends directly affected, who will probably never be able to do so for a long long time, if ever. But, this is not the only tragedy unfolding, as in all likelihood, we will also be a witness to the fact that hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children will also be impacted either because of the coincidence of birth or religious practices they may have in common with the perpetrator of this heinous crime. Their lives have just got that much harder, especially if Republican and US presidential hopeful Donald Trump were to finally have his way.
For the general public, it is of little consequence to debate whether this attack should be classified as a terrorist outrage or not. Such a debate is redundant because by any definition using violence to frighten or kill people, whatever be the motivation, cannot be termed anything else but terrorism, regardless of whether this definition coincides with how Governments categorise such acts. Whether Omar Mateen was ajihadi or a raving lunatic is of little importance and changes nothing.
That, in an election year, politics will overwhelm the narrative is to be expected as each candidate will do all he or she can to make the best of the situation, however cynical that may sound, as that is the nature of the beast.
Therefore, Trump’s call for US President Barack Obama’s resignation is not unexpected, though he knows as well as anybody else that in such circumstances a “lone wolf” attack of this nature is well-nigh impossible to foresee, let alone prevent. It is indeed reflective of the political climate that despite the enormity of the tragedy neither candidate is in a position to condemn existing gun laws that allowed Mateen the option to legally procure the weapons he put to such deadly use.
It has often been said that history repeats itself till you learn from it and that truism holds good even in this case. It is time for all Americans, whatever their ideological position, to junk the Second Amendment to their Constitution, the one that gives individuals the right to keep and bear arms. This is no longer 1791, when this Bill was adopted, and without serious focus on enacting gun control legislation, such tragedies are but only moments away.
This shooting has been followed by another at a shopping mall just days later. The sad truth is that with effective gun laws in place such a tragedy may not have been preventable, but consequence would certainly not have been so horrendous. The reality is that with such casualties even the most well-trained infantry battalion will be rendered hors de combat for a substantial period of time.
We should also remember that the Second Amendment was based on earlier rights, which while in their stated purpose may have been to provide individuals the right to self-defence, was liberally used by colonists to grab land from the native Americans. It was also at a time when the fledgling American Republic under George Washington was deeply involved in a war against the native American-Indian tribes to grab their hunting grounds east of the Mississippi River. It is ironical that the Bill of Rights, and democratic institutions that ensure their effectiveness, which earlier allowed settlers to use force against the natives and occupy their lands is now being used by newer immigrants to thrust their beliefs, settle scores or give vent to their prejudices. Equality before the law can have unintended consequences.
So how does this tragic episode have any relevance for us? We will do well to remember that despite strict gun control laws in this country, which allows possession of a licensed weapon under very strict guidelines, we are not free of endemic use of guns to assert one’s rights. As the recent Mathura episode has starkly brought out, it isn’t just laws on the books that matter but their implementation and that is one area in which we have been sadly lacking.
This article originally appeared in The Pioneer.