The man suspected of killing three people at a party in Alabama has surrendered to the police. Twenty-two-year-old Desmonte Leonard also injured three more people when he opened fire. The quarrel about a girl could have had a much less tragic end if Leonard had not had a gun handy. This incident is throwing a discredit upon the US gun laws which make firearms easily available to every citizen of the country.
According to witnesses and one of the victims, the shooting began after a tiff between two groups of guests at a student party at the Auburn University campus turned into a fight. Desmonte Leonard who participated in the fight opened fire, as a result of which three people were killed on the spot and another three injured. One of the injured people is still in hospital in the critical state. Leonard himself who was in hiding for three days preferred to turn himself in at the end.
Tragedies that regularly shake American cities vividly prove that firearms are often used by the most unstable groups of society, such as teenagers, people with mental disorders and even ex-criminals. Suffice it to remember the massacre arranged by a student of the Virginia Technical Institute who killed 32 people in 2007, or the attempt on the life of Senator Gabrielle Giffords carried out by a psychopath who shot to death 19 participants in the voters’ meeting with the politician. Incidentally, it is noteworthy that Giffords who sustained a severe head wound was traditionally supporting the gun laws.
In spite of the efforts of a large number of human rights activists, lawyers, politicians and public figures, it is not easy to revise the US gun laws. Gun manufacturers who do not want to lose their profits continue to praise the advantages of an easy access to firearms. To prove their point, those in favour of universal firearms ownership, the majority of whom are the Republicans, usually emphasize that the right to carry arms is one of the fundamental rights of the US nation.
On the one hand, this is true. However, the times of colonization and the Civil War are already in the past and today’s society lives according to different laws. Declarations made by the National Rifle Association or the Gun Owners of America to the effect that citizens’ right to self-defence with firearms helps prevent crime do not hold water. Rare occasions when people manage to defend themselves with their own guns are fanned to a vast scale, while nationwide tragedies which occur regularly are deliberately ignored. We should admit that it would be unwise to expect ordinary people to feel justified to use firearms when even police officers find themselves in the focus of scandals, due to the unwarranted use of firearms, with growing frequency.
Speaking about obsolete traditions, it is worth mentioning George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch captain, who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death. While neighbourhood watches only have the right to warn the authorities about suspicious activities, Zimmerman must have imagined himself a deputy sheriff in the Wild West and killed a teenager who only had a mobile phone, a package of sweets and a bottle of cold tea on him. Incidentally, Zimmerman who legally owned a gun, had been arrested for assaulting a police officer in the past.
The uncontrolled activities of US gun manufacturers are threatening the country with diplomatic scandals as well. The Mexican president has repeatedly expressed displeasure with the US gun policy because a considerable part of firearms manufactured in the US happens to get into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. When the market is flooded with firearms anyone can get them, either legally or with the help of underground dealers. Large-scale programmes have been developed with the aim of struggling against illegal gun ownership, for example, street searches which gave rise to charging the New York authorities with racism. However, practice shows that the interests of Big Business are more important to the US government than the country’s international reputation or its citizens’ safety.