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Neither killings or racist motive for Buffalo shooting is anything new

The shooting that killed 10 and wounded three at a Buffalo supermarket was an altogether commonplace occurrence in the US. 

While the deadliest mass shooting of the year thus far, the horrendous occurrence last weekend was the 198th such incident of 2022. That means the US sees about 10 such shootings each week, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines mass shootings as attacks in which four or more people are shot, excluding the perpetrator.  

Also not uncommon was the racial motivation behind the incident. 

The suspect arrested by police, an 18-year-old White man, is said to have posted a 180-page manifesto addressing the “great replacement theory” that argues officials are deliberating looking to replace White Americans with non-White immigrants.  

His screed also references other racially motivated shootings, including the 2015 murder of nine Black parishioners in South Carolina and the killing of 23 people at a Walmart in Texas in 2019.  

The shooting has sparked another round of the endless gun control debate there. It’s all rather academic, as nothing is going to change. If the gunning down of six-year-old children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut a decade ago wasn’t enough to prompt change, nothing will. The US has only become more polarized since that time.

There’s been an outpouring of public comments, as you’d expect. Many calls for gun control and a whole bunch of comments from the gun-lobby-fuelled Second Amendment types.

The National Rifle Association has already made the situation worse, tweeting that “Disarming law-abiding citizens and making good people helpless will not make bad people harmless.” That in apparent response to renewed calls for gun control.

Politicians clearly in the thrall of the gun lobby are trotting out the usual pabulum about how it’s time to mourn – is there anything more useless and disingenuous than “thoughts and prayers”? – rather than talk about gun control.

The goings on demonstrate yet again one of the major points of difference between our country and that to the south. Guns are a big part of the culture in the US. Here, that’s not the case.

A seemingly endless stream of mass shootings have done nothing to boost gun control measures. With every incident, some people call for further restrictions on gun ownership. On the other side of the argument, gun advocates argue for greater access to guns, saying armed civilians could have gunned down such criminals before their killing sprees continued.

The latter arguments are commonplace in the US, where Second Amendment – the right to keep and bear arms – issues abound. In Canada, the notion seems ridiculous: having more guns at hand increases the risk. It would be far more likely for someone to see red, snap and use a readily available gun than it would be for someone to be faced with a murderer on a shooting rampage.

A study by two New York City cardiologists found that the U.S. has 88 guns per 100 people and 10 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people – more than any of the other 27 developed countries they studied.

Japan, on the other hand, had only 0.6 guns per 100 people and 0.06 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people, making it the country with both the fewest guns per capita and the fewest gun-related deaths. Canada’s numbers were 30.8 and 2.4. respectively.

There are some 390 million guns owned by civilians in the U.S., and about 40 per cent of Americans own a gun or live in a household with one. Not coincidentally, the U.S. has the highest rate of murder or manslaughter by firearm in the developed world – that translated to 11,000 deaths in 2017 alone.

While Canada and the U.S. have comparable rates of homicides without guns (1.79 per 100,000 versus 1.35), the American firearm homicide rate is five times Canada’s (3.8 versus. 0.69 per 100.000); the U.S. handgun homicide rate is seven times Canada’s (2.83 versus 0.39 per 100,000).

The U.S. also has 5.8 times the rates per 100,000 of robberies committed with firearms even though rates of robberies without guns are comparable.

Those kind of statistics depict a major difference between our neighbouring cultures.

Not, of course, that we’re immune from such tragedies.

Still, we operate under a different mindset than do those in the States, where politicians must be pro-gun, or at least not come out in favour of gun control. That kind of thinking would not fly here: even the gun registry debate was more about waste, graft and rightwing ideology than about the guns themselves.

US ownership accounts for almost a third of all the guns in the world. American guns don’t just kill Americans – they fuel the illegal gun trade and gun violence worldwide. At least half of the illegal handguns recovered in Canada and 80 per cent of crime guns in Mexico had their origin in the US.

Despite some past concerns about the suspect’s mental health, his acquisition of guns didn’t set off any bells – access is too easy and perhaps uncoordinated to track. He didn’t have any flags attached to his name when buying guns legally. No one did anything wrong … up until the shooter opened fire on the crowd simply out buying groceries.

And therein lies the rub with making guns readily available to the typical law-abiding citizen/hobbyist/enthusiast of NRA lore – every criminal is just a law-abiding citizen until the first time he or she is not. For these kind of mass shootings, that first time comes with consequences to innocent people.

Reversing course on the US gun culture is going to take more than some tightened restrictions on firearms sales, however. In the grips of crumbling military empire and a growing police state, Americans have violence at the core of much of what they do. A climate of fear and loathing does not encourage disarming. Mass shootings are a daily occurrence with no end in sight.

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