On the same day that 20-year-old Adam Lanza went on a shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school, a knife-wielding 36-year-old man, Min Yingjun, attacked children outside a primary school in Guangshan, China.
Lanza, armed with a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle, killed 20 children and six adults in the school before committing suicide. He had driven to the school after shooting his own mother at their home. CBC reports that a medical examiner says the victims were shot multiple times.
In China, the attack injured 22 children and one adult. The man first attacked an elderly woman, then students, before being subdued by security guards. The children he targeted were between six and 11 years old. Though some were critically injured, all were still alive as of Sunday afternoon.
The contrast is rather stark.
The Dec. 14 shooting in Connecticut, considered the second-worst such gun-related mass killing in U.S. history next to the Virginia Tech slaughter, is only the latest in a string of shootings this year that have prompted more calls for stricter gun laws in that country. Unfortunately, this is a pattern that has emerged over several decades.
As the website motherjones.com points out, there have seven mass shootings in the United States this year alone, including a mass murder at a movie theatre in Colorado, another at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Aug. 5, a Sept. 5 shooting that left six dead at a Minneapolis sign company and now in Connecticut.
Over the last 30 years, in fact, there have been 62 mass killings involving gun violence in the United States. And of the 142 guns that were used by the assailants — which include dozens of assault weapons and semiautomatic handguns — more than 75 per cent of them had been obtained legally.
News reports suggest Lanza’s mother, 52-year-old Nancy Lanza, had five weapons registered to her, including the Bushmaster rifle that her son used to kill most of his victims, as well as a Glock and a Sig Sauer that were also found at the scene of the shooting.
The Bushmaster rifle is typically sold with a 30-round magazine, which allows the shooter to fire all 30 rounds in a minute or less, while the Glock and the Sig Sauer, which are popular with law enforcement officers and the military, are quickly and easily reloaded, according to ABC news.
In many of the mass killings over the last three decades the shooters have suffered from some kind of mental health problem that have not been properly assessed or addressed. Adam Lanza has been described as a highly intelligent but awkward and socially uncomfortable individual who may have suffered from autism or Asperger’s syndrome.
Two questions come to mind: Why were such high-powered assault rifles allowed in the home of a woman who’s son had apparent mental health issues? And why, secondly, does anyone in the general public need access to these kinds of assault weapons?
Anyone who says they need a 30-round magazine to shoot deer is either a really bad shot, or flat out lying. These types of weapons were designed to kill people, not to use as hunting tools.
America’s 10-year ban on assault weapons lapsed in 2004, and since then bills that have been introduced to renew the ban have been unsuccessful.
It’s time to revisit the ban.
Meanwhile, a mental health expert in Colorado says the Connecticut shooting highlights the need for more and better access to psychiatric care for U.S. citizens.
“It’s a critically under-served area — access to child and adolescent psychiatry,” Dr. Jennifer Hagman told ABC news over the weekend.
“Mental health benefits are often not covered at the level of medical benefits. We have made it very difficult for individuals with mental health problems.”
As the National Rifle Association seems to say after incidents of mass shootings, guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Sure. But people armed with assault weapons and semiautomatic handguns kill a whole lot more victims, and faster, than without them.
Putting assault weapons into the hands of people in responsible positions, like teachers, is not the answer to America’s gun violence.
Until American lawmakers and the U.S. public address the twin issues of gun proliferation and poor mental health care — instead of looking down the barrel of a gun for answers — these kinds of mass shooting will continue.