WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Monday he saw no link between mass shootings and guns, but demands for strict gun control laws grew louder after the Texas church tragedy.

On Sunday, a gunman opened fire at worshippers at the First Baptist Church in Southerland Spring, Texas, killing 26 people and injuring 20 others.

The victims ranged from a five-year-old child to a 72-year old man. The gunman was later identified as a local resident Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, who was later chased and killed by a sharpshooting plumber Stephen Willeford.

Almost every family in this small town of about 400 people has been affected by this mass shooting, which is the second in a little over a month. On Oct 1, a gunman opened fire at a concert in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring 546.

Read: After Las Vegas massacre, Trump silent on gun control

The two tragedies galvanised the campaign for gun control, which is backed by a vast section of the American society, from the opposition Democratic Party to peace and human rights activists who blame easy access to guns for the mass shootings that have killed hundreds of people in recent years.

But on Monday, President Trump refused to see a link between the mass shootings and guns, saying that the Texas church massacre “isn’t a guns-situation,” but instead “a mental health problem at the highest level”.

And he is backed by the strong gun lobby, which claims that the second amendment to the US Constitution allows citizens to keep guns. The strongest pro-gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA), has more than five million members and collects up to $400 million a year in membership dues, programme fees and other contributions.

The association has an effective support base in the Republican Party and has successfully used its clout to derail efforts to bring gun controls. The gun lobby is particularly influential in the current Trump administration, which includes many NRA members.

The US media noted that President Trump is not only influenced by such lobbies but is also an ardent believer in the citizens’ right to keep gun.

Asked at news briefing in Tokyo if gun control was the answer to mass shootings, Mr Trump said: “I think that mental health is your problem here. This was — based on preliminary reports — a very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries.”

But “this isn’t a guns-situation,” he added, while noting that “fortunately, somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it would have been — as bad it was, it would have been much worse … that’s the way I view it.”

The powerful New York Times newspaper, however, rejected the president’s claim that there was no link between guns and mass shootings.

“Orlando, Dallas, Las Vegas, and now Sutherland Springs. Each location has only recently experienced an unthinkable tragedy at the hands of a mass murderer and his guns,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial titled, “It’s Not Too Soon to Debate Gun Control.”

“Beyond these tragedies, which understandably seize the public’s attention, are dozens more in cities around America — nearly one per day,” the newspaper added.

And Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, also supported the demand for gun control.

“As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theatres, and city streets,” he said in a statement to the media.

Another Democrat, Sen Elizabeth Warren, tweeted: “How many more people must die at churches or concerts or schools before we stop letting the @NRA control this country’s gun policies?”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said, “As we mourn the lives that were cruelly cut short today, we must resolve to denounce all forms of hatred and violence and to drive them from our communities and our nation.”

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2017

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