Simon Guy’s article, “We don’t want your thoughts and prayers” (April SR), looks at the huge movement in the US for action over gun control. The protests have been progressive and mainly led by young people. They have been a cry of rage against the Trump administration and the NRA.
But in order to tackle the gun violence in the US we have to go beyond the demand for tighter gun control, and look at the conditions which drive young people to commit such horrifying atrocities.
Mental health is a huge factor. According to an hhs.gov study on adolescent mental health, 20 percent of male and 40 percent of female high school students had symptoms of depression in 2015.
This is partly driven by a deeply unequal society. According to inequality.org, Americans in the top 1 percent now average over 40 times more income than the bottom 90 percent.
This unequal system, driven for profit, fuels the racist divide-and-rule policies of the US state, further alienating young people from each other.
When police publicly execute black people in the street, with no justice served, what message does this send to young people?
When the alt-right is able to mow down and kill an anti-fascist activist in broad daylight and not face condemnation from the president of the country, what message does this send?
When Trump launches 105 missiles on Syria, while only letting 11 Syrian refugees into the US, what message does this send?
Nikolas Cruz, the student responsible for the 17 dead at the Parkland, Florida, shooting, was a Nazi sympathiser. So while a gun was the tool which was used to execute his horrifying blood bath, a toxic ideology of racism and violence lay behind it.
Gun control in the US would never mean gun control for the state or the police. According to statista.com since February 2017 police in the US have shot and killed 987 people. Of those, 246 (25 percent) were black (12 to 13 percent of Americans are black).
Tighter gun laws are needed and they would be part of stopping horrors like the Parkland shooting. Still, to be truly effective, the campaign needs to look beyond just tackling the NRA to tackling the system of racism, inequality and war that bear responsibility for the atrocities.