SINGAPORE’S Home Minister K. Shanmugam has denounced the lack of gun control laws as the reason behind the proliferation of firearms and mass shootings in the United States.
Writing in a Facebook post Sunday, Shanmugam listed the number of tragedies – mass shootings in schools and elsewhere (eight and 30, respectively) – that have taken place since 2018 began.
“A great country that cannot protect its most innocent – young children in school,” he wrote.
While US President Donald Trump and Republican leaders are blaming the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida on mental illness, Shanmugam disagrees:
“It’s wrong to blame mental health. There are people with mental health issues in every country, including Singapore. America is not alone in having such people.”
Another school shooting in the US.It’s only February. And there have been eight reported school shootings that…
Drawing on his own experience with the mentally ill, Shanmugam wrote that he can only imagine what would happen if they had access to war weapons that could “mow down dozens in minutes”.
Last Wednesday, a gunman opened fire at terrified students and staff at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The death toll now stands at 17 (14 students and three staff members), the deadliest school shooting since 2012’s Sandy Hook massacre.
So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2018
US President Donald Trump tweeted the above before giving a seven-minute speech at the White House a day after the tragedy. At the White House, he pledged to work with state and local leaders “to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health”.
The New York Times noted he made no mention of guns.
America has long grappled with a powerful gun lobby thwarting any attempt to impose tighter restrictions on gun ownership. Despite national outcries and an “unparalleled epidemic of gun violence” with 30 mass shootings this year alone, there are extraordinary obstacles when any changes to gun laws are proposed.
Shanmugam referred to this in his Facebook post, writing:
“The majority of Americans want gun control. But it has not been possible for the US to pass gun control laws, to prevent mentally unstable persons from accessing guns,” he wrote.
“That is democracy American style – those who want free access to guns (though a minority) are better organised, they channel money to congressmen, other influential persons. They thus have had more power than the majority – so far. They can block any legislation that seeks to control people from buying assault rifles.”
Since Trump took power, the current US administration has instead focused on the mental health of gunmen and suspects after other mass shootings.
He removed an Obama-era regulation intended to prevent people with mental disabilities from buying guns. The New York Times reported that military weapons, such as the AR-15 rifle the Parkland shooter carried, are easier to purchase in Florida, than a handgun.
In his Facebook post, Shanmugam wrote that he is “baffled” by such ease of purchase in the US.
Singapore, on the other hand, boasts among the toughest gun ownership laws in the world.
Since 2000, the number of annual firearm homicides in the Southeast Asian country has never exceeded one, according to GunPolicy.org.
“Singapore perhaps has the toughest gun control laws in Southeast Asia, if not the world,” Dr Paul Chambers from Thailand’s Naresuan University told Asian Correspondent.
“According to the Arms Offences Act, unlawful possession or carrying of firearms is punishable with imprisonment and caning. Using or attempting to use arms when committing a scheduled offence is punishable by execution,” he explained.