PRESIDENT Donald Trump’s reckless anti-immigrant rhetoric has come home to roost in the form of mass shootings in several states. Coming into the first week of August alone, 34 people were killed and 64 were injured in such shootings across the United States, bringing the number of these atrocities so far this year to in excess of 250 – an average of five per state in the first seven months of 2019.
The most deadly of these was at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, where the shooter killed 22 people in an alleged vendetta against immigrants, with the suspect telling police that he was targeting Mexicans. Seemingly, he drove 11 hours from his hometown in one part of Texas to El Paso, which is close to the Mexican border and where 83% of its residents are Hispanic or Latino.
Ten people in Dayton, Ohio, including the gunman who perpetrated the mass shooting, died in a hate-fuelled attack on late-night revellers, including his own sister who was in the process of coming out as a transgender man. It is not known if he deliberately killed his sibling and police have not established a definitive motive for the shootings.
In the wake of these two attacks, President Trump felt he had to show solidarity with the communities that had been so badly affected by the attacks and visited both Dayton and El Paso. In a move away from his often vitriolic Tweets, he called – in a calm and measured manner – on Americans to condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy, which seemed so like a Damascene conversion that many people were taken aback by it!
How serious he is though about it now being ‘the time to set destructive partisanship aside and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion and love’ remains to be seen. However, his words should be taken at face value for now and welcomed, and hopefully they were not just uttered for political expediency with an eye towards getting himself re-elected.
As we all know, words are one thing and actions are another. On his visits to Texas and Ohio, he was met by protestors making their feelings known about the United States’ liberal gun laws, which make all sorts of weapons fairly freely available to people in order to uphold their Second Amendment constitutional right to bear arms.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a powerful group which is constantly lobbying politicians and contributing to their election campaigns in an effort to ensure that gun laws don’t get diluted. President Trump sings to their tune with his constant mantra that it is not the guns that kill people but the people who fire them, however guns constantly seem to be falling into the wrong hands and people – many with mental health issues – seem to be able to amass veritable arsenals of all sorts of deadly weapons.
Other countries where guns are not as freely available do not have the same incidence of mass shootings as the United States has – in excess of one a day on average. They are so common there that only the more serious ones receive widespread reporting and they almost seem to get taken for granted, which is not a great reflection on American society as a whole.
No sooner had the President and his entourage left Texas than there was a big round-up of immigrants, which took some of the sheen off his noble words condemning racism, bigotry and white supremacy. Immigrants have traditionally helped build America and do a lot of jobs its own citizens are not prepared to; even Mr Trump’s current wife and ex-wife were immigrants from Europe, so his hardcore stance on the subject is somewhat ironic.
There have to be controls on immigration, but there also needs to be an accommodation on residency status reached for people already there from abroad who have made their lives in the United States, possibly marrying American citizens, opening businesses and paying their taxes. Such immigrants need to be embraced and not vilified as President Trump has done on social media in the past and, whether intentionally or not, inspired hatred for them, which has resulted in unnecessary killings by bigots with much-too-easy access to guns.
His condemnation of the killers is not enough unless he follows it up with actions to make it more difficult for their likes to access weapons. Unfortunately, the gun lobby will probably steer him away from doing so.
The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs has gone as far as issuing a warning that there is an increased threat of terrorism and extremist violence worldwide and this should be borne in mind by Irish citizens living and working in the USA, adding specifically: ‘The USA has also witnessed a number of mass shootings in recent years.’
It certainly is something that should be borne in mind by anyone planning on visiting there too.