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Weak gun laws, main cause of mass shootings in US: Academic

Gun enthusiasts look over Ruger pistols at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Press TV has conducted an interview with Stephen Zunes, a professor at the University of San Francisco, about a mass shooting in the US that left at least 50 people dead and 53 others injured at a night club in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday.

What follows is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: The FBI had this man under two separate investigations for links to extremist groups; yet, he was able to buy firearms with no problem. Help us make sense of that.

Zunes: Oh, as many of your viewers are aware, the United States has very weak gun laws. Indeed, you can be barred for flying on an airplane and not even be given an explanation or right to appeal or even know what the charges are against you. And yet, the same person on that terrorist watch list can walk into a gun store and get a semi-automatic rifle and copious amounts of ammunition. And so… and we are seeing one of the tragic results of this kind of distorted policy.

Press TV: And how about the CAIR asking certain politicians not to exploit this massacre to score points… referring obviously to Donald Trump? Your thoughts on that.

Zunes: I think is very important. I mean, unfortunately as your viewers must also know, the United States has had scores of mass shootings and in recent years. This is the largest single event, but we’ve had quite a few that have killed dozens of people. Virtually, every single one of these was done by people of European and Christian background, virtually all of them.

And yet, when we had one of the exceptions in San Bernardino, California, earlier this year, you had politicians jumping all over this as to justify these Islamophobic policies.

So, this use of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment serves purposes both to avoid looking at rational reforms in gun laws but also as a means of frightening the American people into supporting more US military intervention in the Middle East.

Press TV: And you just mentioned this massacre will probably definitely open a dialog once again about the number of guns on US streets and gun control. Do you think we may see some changes after this incident?

Zunes: It was interesting that they’ve actually found some of the recruiting tapes for Daesh and like-minded groups that specifically said, ‘Hey, it’s so easy to get guns in the United States. Anybody can get guns.’ I mean, and if you get guns that easy, you don’t have to worry about making explosives or hijacking airliners. It’s doing a lot of things that terrorists might end up having to do elsewhere to do their dirty work.

Here, just about anybody can get these very powerful weapons with a plenty of ammunition to do harm.

Now what’s interesting is that the last time the United States tightened gun laws was in the 1960s, when the Black Panther Party and other groups of militant African-Americans took advantage of liberal gun laws to arm themselves as a kind of self-defense force against racist police. Well, the state legislators and others in the federal government freaked out and they put on some gun restrictions. But as those militant African-American groups kind of faded and were repressed, they started loosening gun laws again because most of the people who were buying them were white people, including these far-right-wing militia that weren’t seen as serious a threat.

It’s possible that maybe, just maybe, this might help get some people to be willing to look at… to tougher gun laws, but, unfortunately, maybe not out of a sense of wanting a rational public policy but simply because it’s Muslims who are getting these guns as well now.

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