PETER FROST is horrified by some reactions in the US to the massacre of 50 people.
MOST people’s reaction to the shooting of 49 people in a Florida nightclub by a lone gunman would be horror, sympathy and concern for the friends and families of the dead and equal concern for the 50-plus injured in the shootings and those close to them.
That same concern would also be extended to those at the club who although not injured were deeply traumatised by witnessing such a horrendous incident.
No doubt most in the US felt exactly those emotions as the news stories emerged at breakfast time on Sunday, but some others reacted in very different ways and it didn’t take long.
First and foremost of course was Trump and his Republican allies seeking to attribute the actions of a single and almost certainly deranged individual to a worldwide Islamic conspiracy, what Ronald Reagan would have called an evil empire.
As is normal for Trump, he ignored any real evidence, seizing instead on some early suspicions from the various intelligence agencies who are also keen to brand anything and everything as Islamist terrorism.
The purpose of this article however isn’t to look at Trump and other Republicans’ knee-jerk reactions to the shootings — that has already been covered well in the pages of this paper.
What horrified me was just how other sections of US society used the outrage to advance their own agendas and even business interests.
Amazingly as soon as the US stock exchange opened early Monday morning, gun company shares soared in price.
Traders were not slow to cash in as they predicted that people would rush out to buy more guns in response to the Orlando massacre.
Shares in the two biggest US gun manufacturers — Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger & Co — instantly rose by 11 per cent and 10 per cent.
These increases in gun companies’ shares were precisely in line with what has happened after every recent mass shooting. Callous investors fear that the atrocities might lead to tougher gun control measures and that stricter gun laws might cause more people to buy guns beforehand.
Predictably the huge and powerful gun lobby, led by the trigger-happy National Rifle Association (NRA), started a well-oiled campaign to defend and even promote gun ownership.
As usual the NRA publicity machine opened fire on those who started to demand a reform in gun ownership legislation after yet another horrific mass shooting. The NRA argued that if more of the people in the Orlando nightclub had been armed then the death toll would have been much reduced.
They had of course argued exactly the same after the various school shootings. Their logic being that if all school students were armed then school shootings would be impossible. No, I don’t understand it either.
NRA members and other gun enthusiasts were quick to jump to the defence of the semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle initially, but mistakenly, reported to have been used by the Orlando killer.
Developed as a military weapon in the Vietnam war, the civilian derivative is one of most common and most popular weapons among US gun collectors. The fact that its patent has now expired means that it can be manufactured by all sorts of people at home and abroad.
The AR-15 has been used in some of the worst recent mass shootings in the US. One of the guns that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook School was an AR-15. Another AR-15 shot down the 12 who died in an Aurora, Colorado.
San Bernardino’s 14 dead were also AR-15 victims.
Amazingly after earlier shooting atrocities using similar assault rifles, including the 1989 school shooting in Stockton, California, and the July 1993 California Street shooting in San Francisco that killed eight people and wounded six, these weapons were banned.
In May 1994, former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Reagan wrote to the US House of Representatives in support of banning such weapons. They cited a 1993 Gallup poll that found 77 per cent of US citizens supported a ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of such weapons. The government instituted the ban in 1994.
Unfortunately, NRA lobbying and the curious sunset provision on such legislation meant that the ban automatically expired in 2004 and sales of assault weapons soared. All attempts to renew the ban have failed. Perhaps this time?
Walmart, owners of British supermarket chain Asda, is the biggest individual seller of guns in the US. Last October it claimed to bow to public opinion and ban sales of assault rifles in all its stores.
Yet just last week Walmart was still stocking and selling the AR-15 and its ammunition.
Perhaps the most enthusiastic champion of the AR-15 rifle is Ted Cruz, a senator and until May a would-be Republican candidate for president. Cruz firmly believes every US citizen should have a gun or two, and the gun they should have, says Cruz, is the AR-15. He has even made a video showing his admiration for this particular weapon.
It shows Cruz, and I kid you not, cooking his breakfast bacon by strapping it to the barrel of his beloved AR-15 assault rifle and shooting the gun until the barrel is hot enough to grill the rashers to perfection. This sick video, should you be crazy enough to want to see it, is easily found on the internet.
Finally, and perhaps worst of all, I have to report some of the reaction from those who claim to be Christians.
Homophobic representatives of some of the more extreme Bible-bashers were quick to make their obscene opinions heard.
For them the fact that the shootings were in a gay club meant that the Omar Mateen wasn’t a murderer but simply carrying out God’s will. Which god I am not sure but I am positive that I’m not going to repeat any of their disgusting and disturbing social media messages here.
Despite the somewhat negative aspects that I observed following the shooting I should say that, just as here in Britain and Europe, the vast majority of US people did respond to the shooting with sympathy, concern and overall a message of love and hope for victims and for all of us and that in the end will prove a far more powerful weapon than any assault rifle.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star 20 June 2016.