Once Again, Americans Debate Gun Violence

22 June, 2015

After a deadly shooting at a church in South Carolina last week, U.S. politicians are again debating how to deal with gun laws and gun violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 11,000 people died and 84,000 people suffered injuries from gun violence in 2013. The CDC also reported that another 21,000 people committed suicide with guns.

Currently most adults in the U.S. can legally buy guns. The Swiss group, Small Arms Survey, said in a 2007 report that more civilians in the U.S. own guns than civilians in any other country.

President Barack Obama commented last week on how easily Americans can buy and keep guns. He was speaking about the man who is charged with shooting and killing nine people at a South Carolina church last week. The suspected shooter, Dylann Roof, appears in photographs that include white supremacy symbols.

White supremacy is a belief that the white race is better than all other races and should have control of all other races. Dylann Roof is white; the shooting victims were black.

Mr. Obama says the fact that such a troubled young man had a gun shows America has a problem to solve. An article on June 20 in The New York Times newspaper says Mr. Roof bought the gun with money his parents gave him for his 21st birthday.

"Every country has violent, hateful, or mentally unstable people," said Mr. Obama. "What's different is not every country is awash with easily-accessible guns. And so I refuse to act as if this is the new normal."

Candidates for the 2016 presidential campaign are also commenting on gun violence and gun laws. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton noted other recent deadly attacks. She spoke about the 2012 shooting deaths of children at a school in Connecticut and people in a movie theater in Colorado.

"We have to face hard truths about race, violence, guns and division," said Ms. Clinton. "How many innocent people in our country, from little children to church members to movie theatre attendees, how many people do we need to see cut down before we act?"

Activists who support gun rights are also taking part in the political fight. The National Rifle Association, or NRA, is the biggest gun-rights activist group in the U.S. Its leader, Wayne LaPierre, famously said after the Connecticut school shootings in 2012, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Mr. LaPierre recently promised that gun rights voters would defeat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.

The NRA has strong political support, especially among some well-known politicians from the Republican Party. One of the people who spoke at an NRA meeting earlier this year was former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who is also running for president.

"I have a message for the Obama administration," said Bush. "Why don't you focus more on keeping weapons out of the hands of Islamic terrorists, and less on keeping weapons out of the hands of law-abiding Americans?"

Two years ago, the Senate tried and failed to pass legislation to permit the government to investigate the backgrounds of everyone who wanted to buy a gun. President Obama says such measures would likely cost some elected officials the votes of gun rights activists. But he says lawmakers will one day accept and support stricter gun control.

"I know today's politics makes it less likely that we will see any sort of serious gun safety legislation," Obama said. "I want to be clear: I am not resigned. I have faith we will eventually do the right thing."

I'm Bob Doughty.

VOA's Michael Bowman reported this story. Kelley Jean Kally adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

white supremacy - n. a belief that the white race is better than all other races and should have control of all other races.

awashadj. flooded with or covered by

accessibleadj. able to be used or obtained

law-abidingadj. obeying the law

resignedadj. feeling or showing acceptance that something unpleasant will happen or will not change