Americans have right to reject gun control but many will die if they do

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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The United States president Donald Trump said yesterday that “hate has no place in our country”.

He was responding to two mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, in which at least 29 people were killed.

Mr Trump said “we’re going to take care” of the problem, he said the problem of such massacres has been going on “for years and years” and “we have to get it stopped”.

This is plainly true. Random shootings in which multiple people have been killed are roughly a phenomenon of the last fifty years, but have increased in frequency in the last decade. There is now on average more than one massacre in a year.

Yesterday there were two in a day, which is a reminder also of the copycat potential for such attacks.

The worst attacks ever, in Orlando in 2017 and in Las Vegas the following year, caused more than 100 deaths in total.

Mr Trump said that yesterday’s gunmen were “really very seriously mentally ill”.

It is reasonable to speculate that attackers who can carry out such massacres are disturbed in ways that modern medicine does not yet understand.

But it is the case that America has far more of these massacres than any other country in the western world, when considered in absolute or proportionate numbers.

That is clearly related to the fact that the right to bear arms is written into the American constitution, and deeply embedded in its culture and history, from the very earliest days of the American frontier (some of that history of migration and conflict is captured in our serialisation of reports from the 1739 News Letters).

It is hard to envisage any political headway being made by those who want to control access to firearms. An amendment to the constitution on this matter is inconceivable, because amendments are so hard to secure.

This is a matter for Americans. They might decide against any further control. If so, the tragic death toll will stay high.