Where: The southern state of Virginia, United States
April 19, 2007: April 16 began like any other at Virginia Tech college. Some hours later, it turned into the most violent day that any American college had seen so far. A student armed with two guns went on a shooting spree, killing 32 people. The gunman’s bullets just did not seem to end. He fired in a dormitory as well as in a classroom. Finally, he shot himself.
There were two Indians among the people who were killed. One was 26-year-old Minal Panchal, from Mumbai, who had joined Virginia Tech to study architecture. The other was a teacher — Professor G.V. Loganathan, who belonged to the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He had been teaching in Virginia Tech college for 15 years.
A college is all about students in classrooms, libraries, sports grounds and canteens. It is about students studying, laughing, joking, and playing pranks. The idea of policemen in a college campus seems odd. People running in fear, trying to escape the bullets of a man shooting at anyone who comes his way – these scenes belong to battlefields and war zones. But in the last 10 years, there have been many such tragic scenes of violence involving guns in colleges and even schools across the United States.
US trigger crazy capital of the world
The US has the most incidents of violence involving guns in the whole
• There is one gun killing every 17 minutes
• One child or teen is killed by a gun every three hours
• More than 1000 children commit suicide with guns every year
• 15,000 children have been killed by guns in the last five years in
• 34 percent of American homes have at least one gun
Buying a gun is as easy as buying milk
It sounds weird but buying a hand gun in the US is like buying milk or chewing gum. Any adult who has not been convicted for a crime can buy a handgun. A person who buys a handgun does not need to know how his gun works or how to handle it safely. Most families keep their guns loaded or unlocked or both. It leads to tragic accidents.
There are no rules that a handgun buyer must pass a safety training course about handling, using, storing and risks of handguns. Worse, no one keeps track of what happens to a handgun after someone buys it. There is no system that a person has to register their handguns and renew that registration periodically. So it is very easy for people who should not be allowed to use guns, to get hold of them. This includes criminals as well as children.
No laws about safety standards for guns
In the United States there are strict laws about safety standards for practically everything you can think of. Toys cannot be made of any toxic material. Manufacturers of food stuff must not use ingredients harmful to health. Every tool has detailed instructions about safety features. Manufacturers who ignore them can be hauled up by law. But there are no safety standards for gun manufacturers! The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has no powers to see that gun manufacturers ensure safety standards in the design, manufacture and marketing of firearms.
Moms march for gun control laws
As gun violence has entered every aspect of life, many people have got together to ask for tighter laws on gun control in the US. One of the strongest movements to do is led by mothers across the US. It is called the Million Mom March campaign. Nine years ago, when two students killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher, and injured 22 others in a shootout at a high school in Columbine eight years ago, the wave of violence served as a wake-up call. Then Donna Dees-Thomases, a mother, read an article about a gunman who shot without reason at a group of children in California. She decided to organise a march to protest the complete lack of gun control laws.
On Mother’s Day, May 14, 2000, about 750,000 mothers and other sympathetic people gathered in the US capital Washington DC to demand stricter gun laws. About 150,000 people marched in other American cities in their support. Since then the Million Mom March movement has spread across the US. They demand laws that keep children and adults safe at home, in school, in the workplace and in the community.
The powerful arms industry
It is not an easy task. The gun industry is one of the most profitable and powerful industries in the US. It manufactures firearms for use within the country and supplies arms to countries across the world, being the biggest suppliers of arms globally. Few American politicians are willing to oppose it.
But all hope is not lost. More and more ordinary Americans are saying they do not want gun violence to be an answer to every problem on the street or even at home. When mothers decide to act, it is time for wrong doers to take notice.
The statistics about gun violence in the US have been taken from the million mom march website