In the US, a foetus is sacred – but children in classrooms come second to guns. Why?

Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children in the US

Harriet Williamson
Wednesday 25 May 2022 11:10
<p>The US has now endured 199 mass shootings in the first 145 days of 2022 – that’s more than one a day </p>

The US has now endured 199 mass shootings in the first 145 days of 2022 – that’s more than one a day

Just 10 days after a deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where a self-described fascist and white supremacist killed 10 Black people in a supermarket, the US must content itself with another horrifying episode of gun violence.

At least 19 children between the ages of five and 11 and two adults have been murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, after an 18-year-old entered the school with a handgun and opened fire.

It’s one of those events where words fail. Every descriptor seems to fall short in describing the wrenching, sickening, icy horror of children being gunned down in a place where they absolutely should feel and be safe. But there are questions we should be asking now – of lawmakers and of the state of Texas.

This is a state where you can openly carry a firearm – including long guns (like rifles) and handguns – in a public place without a licence. Texas does not require background checks for private sales of firearms, and does not restrict NFA weapons – which include machine guns, short-barrelled rifles and shotguns, heavy weapons, explosive ordnance, silencers and “any other weapon” (AOW), such as disguised or improvised firearms.

Abortion, however, is illegal once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The state will legislate against access to vital healthcare, but it won’t legislate against guns. If you are pregnant, the state forces you to carry your foetus to term, but that baby won’t be protected from shooters in their school.

Which lives have worth in Texas? Not the lives of people who need to end their pregnancy – for a whole host of reasons. Not the lives of kids sitting in a classroom. Legislative powers are keen to protect the unborn – we’ve recently seen calls for Roe v Wade to be overturned by the Supreme Court – but the born come second, seemingly, to the cult of gun worship.

Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children in the US. Those who need or want to terminate a pregnancy are having their lives put at risk by restrictive and draconian laws. All the while, guns revel in a protected status.

On the outside, across the Atlantic, it is very difficult to understand this sort of reasoning. It makes a mockery of the shared values that should bind humanity together.

The governor of Texas, right-wing Greg Abbott says he “mourns this horrific loss” but a tweet from 2015, three years after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Texas, remains undeleted. It reads: “I’m EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans. @NRA.”

Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz are still, at the time of writing, expected to attend the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Texas this weekend.

In the painful aftermath of the Uvalde shooting, we must not forget that this tragic and sensless loss of life is not a rare occurrence. The US has now endured 199 mass shootings in the first 145 days of 2022. More than one a day. Nearly 10 a week.

When will enough be enough? When will US lawmakers come together and decide that no more lives should be destroyed by gun violence? When will parents be able to send their children to school without the fear that today – this day – could be the one where they don’t come home?

The gunman in Texas has been named as Salvador Romas, an 18-year-old from Uvalde. He was shot and killed by responding police officers. We do not yet have a clear idea of what motivated Romas, but what is certain is that unless America’s obsession with gun ownership is dismantled, the kind of mass shooting he perpetrated will continue to be normalised.

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As long as the second amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, is prioritised above the safety of little kids in a classroom, we will see more abhorrent instances of mass murder.

“Thoughts and prayers”, that most empty of phrases, won’t cut it. Parents and caregivers will wake up today and the next day and the day after that to the knowledge that their children have been taken from them. The ripple effect of gun violence shatters families and communities. It obliterates joy and peace and threatens everything that makes our lives worth living.

From a UK perspective, the idea that virtually any adult can own a gun – that people have the right to possess deadly weapons created for the purpose of killing – is utterly bizarre and grotesque and terrifying.

No one – not a single person – should be gunned down while peacefully living their lives and going about their day, whether in a school or a grocery store or a nightclub or a place of worship. Unless there is a real, tangible, meaningful sea change, where the US gun lobby no longer gets to own this conversation, there will be more Sandy Hooks, more Buffalos, more Virginia Techs, and more Uvaldes.

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