By Uche Onyebadi
YOU wouldn’t be off the mark to conclude that President Barack Obama’s greatest nightmare is what to do to preserve his signature law, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), from being overturned by Republican legislators with their majority in Congress; or that he dreads losing momentum in the economic near-miracle he has achieved in America; or how to ensure that a fellow Democrat succeeds him in office. None of these is true.
Just before he left for his African tour last week, he gave an interview to the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, where he candidly talked about his recurring nightmare and wished he had the power to do something meaningful about it. This is how the president presented his lamentation: “You (BBC reporter) mentioned the issue of guns, that is an area where if you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws. Even in the face of repeated mass killings.”
Repeated mass killings
Then, the president must have startled his interviewee with this straight-talk: “And you know, if you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands. And for us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing.”
The stark irony of the situation is that a few hours after the BBC interview was aired, John Russel Houser, a 59-year-old man, staged the latest mass shooting in the US history of gun violence. He took his gun to the Grand 16 movie theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana, shot and killed two women, and injured about 11 others before taking his own life when he realized that the police had cordoned off his escape route. According to the police, Houser had legally bought his gun at a pawn shop despite the fact that he had a history of mental problems. His innocent victims died as they were watching a movie titled “Trainwreck.”
Back to Obama’s interview. Is it not astounding that the president of the nation at the forefront of the fight against international terrorism said this about his country: that since 9/11 in 2001, a lot more Americans have been killed by their gun-toting compatriots through domestic gun violence than by terrorists, including ISIS and al-Qaeda, whose espoused mission is to kill Americans. Another irony is that as these deaths through local gun violence increase, Americans are quick to be issued with “travel advisory” warnings not to visit some countries where the number of people who are killed by so-called terrorists is nowhere near the number of the people killed by domestic terrorists in the country that issued such travel warning.
If you think that President Obama may be exaggerating the incidents of gun-related violence in the US, try this web site: http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/. According to statistics published in that web site for 2015 (January to July), the US has already witnessed 28,128 gun-related incidents in seven months. A total of 7,212 people have died in such incidents.
Issue of gun violence
The injury list has 14,507 people. Among the dead and injured are 1,809 young people, ages zero to 17. The number of mass shootings is 182.
Why this issue of gun violence and apparent lack of control measures remains intractable is that gun ownership is rooted in the US constitution. Its 2nd Amendment stipulates that: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” This provision has been interpreted in many ways. In 2008, the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of individuals owning guns for personal use. But because the case that led to the ruling involved the District of Columbia, a federal territory, there was confusion as to whether or not the ruling protected people all over the US. In July 2010, the same Supreme Court ruled that the right to bear arms applied to the state and local levels as well.
Here then lies the dilemma. Americans cherish their constitutional rights. So, it would be difficult to get a constitutional amendment that will overturn the right to bear arms. On the other hand, each time a mass shooting incident occurs, there is always a national outrage about gun violence and the need to do something about it. But, sooner than later, the issue suffers a relapse. It appears Obama would leave office, still haunted by the spectre of gun violence in his beloved country.