OPINION: It was chilling to wake up to the news that 26 people from the affluent Connecticut community of Newtown, including 20 children aged between 6 and 7, had been killed by a rampaging gunman.
It was one of the worst mass shootings in recent times but is by no means an unfamiliar event in the United States, where there have been at least seven mass killings of more than four people this year.
In July, a masked gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 when he opened fire at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Denver. Just a few weeks later on August 5, a gunman opened fire at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing six people.
All up about 65 people have died in mass killings and after the Newton massacre, President Barack Obama went on national television to tearfully call for some serious discussions on gun control.
It appeared to be genuine sentiment but whether he follows through remains to be seen. Mr Obama made similar calls after the Denver shooting but did little in his first term to address the country's gun laws.
Gun control is a political hot potato in the United States, and perhaps Mr Obama feared a backlash from the powerful gun lobbyists. His concerns might seem sensible to New Zealanders, but he would face stiff opposition from millions of gun-loving Americans who would see their weapons torn from their "cold, dead hands" before conceding to the need for stricter gun laws.
After the Aramoana massacre in 1990, the New Zealand Government introduced a raft of gun law changes, including the restriction of ammunition sales and compulsory photographs on gun licences. These moves were not without detractors but for the most part the New Zealand public saw the need for them.
But the political and economic power of the American gun lobbyists, including the National Rifle Association, the complications posed by the Second Amendment to the constitution and the overwhelming popularity of firearms among the public make for a much tougher playing field in the US.
These killings are undeniably the actions of twisted and deranged individuals, the type of which can be found in any country. But the proliferation of firearms in the United States, coupled with the relative ease in obtaining them is a recipe for disaster that will take more than grand rhetoric to fix.
Our thoughts should be with Manawatu's Pacific Island community as they anxiously wait for news from their loved ones affected by Cyclone Evan. The cyclone has battered Samoa, claiming lives and destroying homes, and was today expected to hit Fiji. Anyone wanting to donate to the recovery can do so by going to redcross.org.nz/donate.
- Manawatu Standard
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