The World is Baffled by U.S. Gun Laws


We take a look at global media response to the Sunday night massacre.

After a mass shooting in Las Vegas left at least 58 dead and 500 people injured, most U.S. media focused on the usual stories: a cycle of shock, blame, and healing. The rest of the world, however, largely marveled at what on earth is wrong with Americans. Why are there so many mass shootings in a country that’s not mired in civil war? Why are people allowed to buy semi-automatic weapons? And how does law enforcement in the United States decide when a mass shooting is the act of a “lone wolf” (as shooter Stephen Paddock has been described) or emblematic of a larger problem?

Almost all major international news outlets had a running list of the worst mass shootings in the United States — some going back to 1966 — but The New Zealand Herald didn’t beat around the bush in describing that history, going with the headline “Roll of Shame: the worst US shootings“.

The Independent, based in the United Kingdom, ran a piece on just how easy it is to purchase guns in Nevada: “Las Vegas gun laws: How easy is it to buys in Nevada? Very.” The publication’s New York-based writer marveled at how easy it was to buy enough guns and ammunition to kill quite so many people in such a short period of time: “Nevada law does not require gun owners to have a permit to purchase or carry rifles and shotguns… The state of Nevada does not require weapons to be licensed… Nevada residents can buy guns from a dealer, a private citizen, or website. There is no mandated waiting period for sales.”

Sky News correspondent Greg Milam quoted witnesses who said the scene was “a war zone,” and the British broadcaster asked anti-gun violence campaigner Gary Pudup (a former member of the National Rifle Association) how Paddock could possibly have “so many weapons of war.”

The Indian Express also had some thoughts about gun control in the United States, elevating people on social media who used the hashtag #GunControlNow. “While US President tweeted about his ‘warmest condolences’ to the families of the victims, people asked for a stronger law,” reported the paper’s Trends Desk.

Our neighbor to the north ran an opinion piece on its CBC site with a typically Canadian headline “Sorry, this is a political column about the massacre in Las Vegas” — Canadians are known to apologize, even when they’re wronged. Writer Neil McDonald pulled no punches, however, when he excoriated CNN’s coverage of the story (“one suspects that if the shooter’s name had been Mohammed, it would have been a different tune”), expressed exasperation at U.S. gun laws (“Just know that in Nevada, the next gambler walking into the casino where you’re enjoying a drink might be angry, or crazy, and carrying a machine-gun. Legally.”), and criticized Trump’s response (“The NRA could have written his address”).

Qatar-based Al Jazeera covered the straight news story, but also published a piecedrawing attention to those who criticize Trump’s take on the attack as an act of “pure evil” but not terrorism as well as people who questioned Trump’s stated motivation (national security) for his Muslim ban:

“Las Vegas” Time for  to announce a complete and total ban on Americans entering the USA?

The article also made some strong points about the gun lobby’s influence on the White House:

Since taking office, Trump has raised the issue of gun ownership rights only obliquely at a few of the campaign-style rallies he has held. But he has taken steps to roll back some restrictions on gun use and sales put into effect while his predecessor, Barack Obama, was in office.

Israel’s left-leaning publication Haaretz, meanwhile, published an opinion piece taking Trump to task for failing to call the shooting an act of terrorism:

State law is clear about what the gunman was doing there on the 32nd floor: “‘Act of terrorism’ means any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to … cause great bodily harm or death to the general population.”

But not Trump. This is the man who, as a candidate, demanded, again and again and again, that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton condemn terrorism by Muslims.

Editor’s Note: D. Parvaz previously worked for Al Jazeera.


Reprinted with permission from Think Progress