Texas mass shooting exposes US system failure
Published: May 25, 2022 09:51 PM

Members of the community gather at the City of Uvalde Town Square for a prayer vigil in the wake of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. According to media reports, 19 students and 2 adults were killed before the gunman was fatally shot by law enforcement. Photo: AFP

Members of the community gather at the City of Uvalde Town Square for a prayer vigil in the wake of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. According to media reports, 19 students and 2 adults were killed before the gunman was fatally shot by law enforcement. Photo: AFP

The deadly shooting at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday which killed 21 people has shocked not only the US but also the world. It was the deadliest shooting at a US grade school since the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and it came just 10 days after the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, that claimed 10 lives. 

While US President Joe Biden again called for action on gun control, observers and netizens who lamented the growing numbers of mass shootings making America the most dangerous place in the world expressed doubts that a failing political system could make any changes. The persistent failure to change has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Some US media outlets pointed out that Democrats have acted on gun violence, which has become a major midterm issue, and US officials, lawmakers and the public reacted to the latest of a string of mass shootings with grief, pain and outrage. However, the question remains: Will the gun violence end with effective legislation passed or will it just become another topic to be exploited and politicized for election campaigns with little hope for bipartisan compromise? 

Some observers believe that loopholes in the top-down system, the interests-driven partisan mechanism, powerful lobby groups and deepening divisions and racism in American society amid the pandemic will lead gun control into a dead end. 

On Tuesday, an 18-year-old gunman entered an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas with two assault rifles and killed at least 19 children and two adults, according to US media reports. The suspect, who was wearing body armor, also allegedly shot his grandmother at a separate scene before entering the school, which was described as "chilling," "tearful" and "devastated" in the media reports. The suspect was shot and killed by a first responder to the scene. His grandmother was hospitalized.  

"How many more lives?" US officials, lawmakers and celebrities strongly reacted to the horror. In his public address shortly after returning from his East Asia trip, an emotional Biden asked, "When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? I am sick and tired of it - we have to act." 

Former US president Barack Obama said in a statement that the US is paralyzed, not by fear, but by a gun lobby and a political party that have shown no willingness to act in any way that might help prevent these tragedies.

Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who has spent a decade to push forward the gun safety bills after the Sandy Hook shooting, spoke furiously and urged Republicans to act to address the gun violence. "What are we doing?" he asked, making a plea to his colleagues to pass laws to decrease such slaughter, an online video showed. 

The latest mass shooting marked at least the 212th in 2022, according to data compiled by US nonprofit site the Gun Violence Archive. Total deaths caused by gun violence in 2022 have already reached over 17,000, after the gun violence claimed about 45,000 lives in 2021, according to the website. 

Failing system

The frequent mass shooting incidents in the US show that the COVID-19 outbreak has made American society much more divided with a growing numbers of issues such as surging inflation and failing governance, and more social problems have accumulated, so the gun has become an outlet for their emotions and dissatisfaction, Diao Daming, associate professor at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

The mass shooting in the majority Latino school occurred one day before the second anniversary of George Floyd's killing at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, which exposed entrenched racism in the US. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Wednesday expressed China's condolences and sympathy to the victims of the shooting. It is unacceptable that the US government had not adopted any meaningful measures in the past 25 years to enact gun control, he said.

While US politicians made emotional calls to end gun violence, observers questioned how much Democrats could advance the legislations or the topic would be used to attack opponents and stage another hypocritical political performance in wooing more voters for the upcoming elections. Some observers indicated that the chance of meaningful legislation on gun control remains grim, especially when Republicans have blocked several previous attempts in conservative-leaning states to weaken existing gun laws. 

"There's no politician in the US who would bring up an idea of banning guns. Democrats call for gun control out of dual motivations, including for political show, which could mean a safe and point-adding stance to help them gain more support among voters," Yuan Zheng, a deputy director and senior fellow of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Whenever there is a mass shooting, Democrats would bring up suggestions driven by political consideration, particularly gun-related bills which could help them woo voters as the midterms loom, Yuan noted. 

Meanwhile, Republicans who also receive money from gun rights groups, who stand for the interests of lobbies and the military-industry complex, once again fell into the whirlpool of the public anger following the latest shooting case.

No matter whether it stems from the separation of powers or the system design, gun control has become a problem that cannot be solved now, Yuan said. He noted  that if there are no effective measures, it means that the system design is definitely flawed and problematic, noting that such design is closely connected to US values and concept of freedom as well as all aspects of history. 

Biggest human rights 

The US is the country facing the most severe gun violence and racism, reflecting that how little it values people's lives as top human rights, netizens in the US and in China said on Wednesday. However, the US government continues to point the finger at other countries' human rights, for example, by calling the UN human rights chief's visit to China a mistake, fully exposing its double standards and hypocrisy. 

When it comes to human rights issues, there is no such thing as a flawless utopia; countries do not need patronizing lecturers; still less should human rights issues be politicized and used as a tool to apply double standards, or as a pretext to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking in Beijing, said on Wednesday via video link in a meeting with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who was in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province. 

Many US and Chinese netizens also shared their disappointment on the bad human rights records in the US.They believed that it only shows that US politicians do not really value human rights in their own country, especially with regular mass shootings. 

"Kids lives don't matter. Black lives don't matter. Women's lives don't matter. Teachers' lives don't matter. Gay lives don't matter. Hispanic lives don't matter. Only the life of the 2nd Amendment matters to Republicans…" a US netizen said. 

"Is this the American-style human rights?" a Chinese netizen asked, saying that those children and their mothers have not done anything wrong to suffer such pain. 

"With interests-driven partisan mechanisms and failing governance, gun violence has not been and will not be solved," Diao said.