WASHINGTON: There will be plenty of prayers in the wake of the latest mass shooting in the United States, but little concrete action on gun control is expected from lawmakers, despite pressure from Americans weary of the violence.

Fourteen people were killed and 21 others injured in Wednesday’s shooting rampage at a social services centre in San Bernardino, California, that ended with the two suspects, a married couple, dead in a gun battle with police.

It was the deadliest mass shooting since the 2012 massacre at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 26 people dead, including 20 small children.

“God isn’t fixing this,” the New York Daily News blared on its front page in a dig at lawmakers — and presidential candidates — who offer their “thoughts and prayers” to victims and their families but baulk at strengthening gun controls.

“As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”

To hammer home its point, the newspaper included tweets from several Republican presidential hopefuls — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham — offering prayers for the victims and their families.

President Barack Obama — who has been visibly angry after recent mass shootings — has called his inability to enact “common sense” gun controls in the wake of the Newtown shooting the biggest disappointment of his time in office.

While support for stricter gun control is on the rise — up to 55 per cent of Americans in a recent Gallup poll from 47pc in 2014 — Obama’s rival Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, have blocked all attempts at reform.

‘No easy answers’

Guns are a potent political symbol in the United States, where the right to bear arms is enshrined in the constitution.

The powerful National Rifle Association has helped shape the response to gun violence in recent years by arguing that “the only way to protect people from a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”.

Millions of average Americans heeded the warnings.

The number of people with licences to carry concealed weapons in public nearly doubled in the past four years to an estimated 11.7 million in 2014 from 6.9m in 2010, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

A common refrain after every mass shooting among lawmakers is that “now is not the time” to talk about gun control, as it would politicise a tragedy.

“These folks only want to think and pray —the NRA pays them to only think and pray about gun violence and not to do anything else about it,” Igor Volsky, a blogger with ThinkProgress, told MSNBC.

Critics say that waiting until a respectful time has passed to talk about gun control means the conversation can never take place because there are more mass shootings than days in the year.

According to the site Mass Shooting Tracker, the latest attack brings to 352 the number of mass shootings — defined as four or more people shot in one incident — in the United States so far this year.

The sheer numbers mean that only the most shocking incidents make the national news, and even then the coverage and response has become “routine”, said Jess Cagle, editorial director of People magazine.

In a sign of how the debate has reached all sectors of American society, the usually fluffy entertainment magazine published the contact information for all members of the US Congress and urged readers to demand change following a shooting at an Oregon college in October.

“We all ask ourselves the same questions: how could it happen again? What are we doing about gun violence in America? There are no easy answers, of course,” Cagle wrote at the time.

“Some argue for stricter gun laws, others say we should focus on mental health issues, some point to a culture that celebrates violence.

“But this much we know: as a country we clearly aren’t doing enough, and our elected officials’ conversations about solutions usually end in political spin.”

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2015

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