Massacres: the American nightmare
The best part of the United States is its opportunities and freedoms. The worst is a gunman who can kill you and your family in a movie house, a supermarket, a dance hall or a school.
It is a complex problem, but one which has a clear cause: there are too many rifles and handguns in the United States. In fact, there are more guns than people. There are 393 million guns in a country of 336 million people.
Four out of 10 adults in the United States live in homes with a rifle or a handgun, according to the Pew Center. And 30 percent own a gun. The principal reason for buying a gun is personal protection.
But it is very different to fight with a neighbor, someone at work, or a wife, screaming at each other, and fighting when there's a loaded gun nearby. It is also an issue of mental health. Every country has people with mental health issues. But there are few countries like the United States, where access to guns is so easy, even for people with significant emotional problems.
It's been said many times, but I don't exaggerate when I say that it's easier to get a gun in the United States than to buy a medicine without a prescription. Sometimes you can buy a gun on the spot, and sometimes, depending on the state, you have to wait a bit. And afterward, an online video can teach you how to load and fire a gun. They are lessons in murder.
It is a tragedy that one of the first things children learn in US schools is how to protect themselves and hide from an active shooter. You see them in fetal positions, under their desks or near the walls, their faces marked by panic.
I covered several school massacres – in Uvalde, Texas, 21 dead in 2022; in Parkland, Florida, 17 dead in 2018; Virginia Tech, 32 dead in 2007 – and it never ceased to surprise me how easy it was for the killers to get their hands on guns (in many cases weapons of war) and enter the schools. And the first thing I think is that it could have happened to anyone in the United States.
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It is the American nightmare.
Every time I hear about a mass shooting, my heart races until I know where it happened. Then comes the tortuous routine. I rush to the TV studio, listen to the reports of dead and a short history of the shooter, learn how he obtained the weapon, go to the funerals of the victims, the politicians promise to do something … and nothing happens. Until the next massacre.
This was a particularly difficult week, with two massacres in California, one in Monterrey Park with 11 dead and the other in Half Moon Bay with seven. And it happened in a state with some of the strictest gun controls in the country. They did not help. In this country, there's always a rifle or a handgun available for killing.
The statistics are chilling. In the first 24 days of 2023 there were 39 mass shootings and 69 dead, according to The New York Times. It's considered a mass shooting when there are four or more dead or injured.
The United States has normalized such massacres, and is almost inure to them. Few believe that anything can be done. Congress is totally divided and Republicans refuse to approve any law that comes even close to the Second Amendment of the US constitution. So the only thing left is to wait for the next massacre. And cross our fingers it doesn't happen near us.
In 2022 there were 20,200 murders with guns in the United States, according to the Web page w ww.gunviolencearchive.org. But there were so many mass killings – 647 – with broad news coverage that we feel overwhelmed by those tragedies.
(A brief and painful aside: In 2022,Mexico country reported 30,968 homicides, many more than in the United States even though its population is one-third as large, 132 million. That means Mexico is much more violent than the United States.
But a massacre can happen anytime and in the least expected place.
My Nahn, 65, went to dance Saturday at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterrey Park to celebrate the Lunar New Year. But as she left and put her car in reverse, she crossed paths with the 72-year-old gunman. He walked up to her window and fired several times, according to a New York Times report. My Nahm was the first of 11 people killed that night.
Is there a less likely place to be murdered than a dance hall for the elderly in California? That is the great tragedy of the United States. That no one is safe, anywhere.