Why have there been so many shootings lately
At a loss after a cruel year
The fact that the San Bernardino assassination claimed the highest number of casualties in the US since 2012 is only so extraordinary because there have been so many such acts recently. Just ten days earlier, 17 people were injured in a shooting in New Orleans who were watching a music video with hundreds of others. Just five days later, a gunman stormed a family planning clinic and killed three people.
The San Bernardino assassination, which left 14 dead, was the latest of the mass shootings that take place almost every day in the United States. A mass shooting is an armed attack with at least four people injured. The Gun Violence Archive website has counted 310 such incidents this year alone. If you add the casualties of the incidents with fewer casualties, more than 12,000 people died from gun violence in the US that year.
However, there has not yet been any real pressure for a comprehensive policy change to reduce these numbers. And after San Bernardino that is also unlikely.
Five days before the attack in San Bernardino, three people were shot dead in a family planning clinic
Dull and confused
Whether mass shootings actually increase in the US is controversial. Online databases such as the "Gun Violence Archive" have only been around for a few years. But there is no doubt that San Bernardino comes at a difficult time for America.
The country was still processing the shooting at the family planning clinic. This, in turn, took place at the very moment of mourning, the state of alarm and the debate in the USA after the Paris attacks. And at the same time there is an intense debate in the country about lethal violence by police officers against black people.
The population is in danger of becoming increasingly numb in the face of violence. Add to this the confusion about their origin. In contrast to the recent attacks in Europe, which could quickly be linked to Islamist terrorism, with the many shootings in America the one evil that needs to be fought is not so easy to spot.
"There are personal motives, political motives, religious motives, criminal motives, or no motives at all," said Jeffrey Simon, who researches mass shootings, in an interview with the New York Times. "And the lines between them are often completely blurred."
Guns seem to be the only common denominator in these acts.
The gun lobby and many Americans oppose stricter gun laws
But while most Americans advocate stricter gun controls, the question of laws limiting gun owners' rights is dividing the nation. Efforts to enforce comprehensive background checks on gun buyers are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The argument of the gun lobby: Such attempts are a violation of the basic right of citizens to carry guns.
In addition, according to research by the Pew Research Center, there is a growing perception among many Americans that crime is increasing and that owning a weapon promises more security.
In addition, the different motives for the attacks have often drawn attention to other tensions in society, rather than the nature of the violence itself. For example, the murder of nine people in a church in June is seen by many to be an expression of violent racism, the there is still in the country. Since the motives of the San Bernardino killers are so far unclear, but there is evidence that the act was planned, the question now arises whether it is perceived primarily as an act of terrorism or as another mass shooting.
"Become a routine"
The frustration at the lack of progress is perhaps most evident in the statements President Barack Obama made after each mass shootout.
Frustrated by the many shootings: President Obama
He was appalled after a series of shootings early in his presidency. After killing 12 people in a Colorado movie theater three years ago, he said, "If there is anything we can learn from this tragedy, it is that life is very fragile."
But something changed after the murder of 28 people, most of them children, in a Connecticut elementary school. "We have had to endure too many of these tragedies in recent years," said a tearful Obama, calling for stricter gun laws. A short time later, a bill was tabled in Congress to ban assault weapons and introduce extensive background checks. The project failed.
This year the Obama's tone became even more frustrated. "I've had to make too many of these statements," he said after the shooting in Charleston in June. Then in October: "Somehow it has become routine. The reporting has become routine. My answer is routine. We are blunted."
After the shooting in San Bernardino, the president sounded resigned. "There are steps we can take ... to increase the chances of this happening less often," he said in a moderate tone.
It is certainly not up to Obama that more effective gun laws are very unlikely in the final year of his term in office. The election campaign is likely to increase polarization on the issue while there are no signs that mass shootings will decrease.
The challenge for America is to keep reminding itself: You have to reckon with these shootings, but you must never accept them.
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