28 Oct 2018

An act of terror in Pittsburgh

America awoke this morning to the agonising detail of a far-right act of terror. This time the victims were not school children, as so often before, but members of the congregation of a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

The dead are from the generations of Jews who grew up in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Generations living their lives in a country built by immigrants for immigrants, that had given their forbearers succour in their hour of need.

But the victims of this shooting also grew up in the America whose precious Constitution, once lauded across the world, had given its citizens the right to bear arms.

Robert Bowers, who today faces 29 criminal charges, held 21 guns. First reports suggest that he held all or most of them legally. He entered the Squirrel Hill Synagogue with at least three hand guns and an automatic rifle regarded as one of the most lethal weapons to emerge from the Vietnam War.

Robert Bowers was active on ‘Gab.com’ uttering extremist white supremacist threats. Gab say their platform “unequivocally disavows and condemns all acts of terrorism and violence” and have subsequently suspended Bowers’ account. Other societies on Earth suffer the views of deranged citizens, but they do not sanctify their right to bear arms, nor register their weapons as ‘legally held’.

Arriving here in Pittsburgh last night amid the cacophony of media accounts of the massacre, the talk was of yes – the tragedy, the pain, and the tears of the community, the loss. And yes – the hate, the mental instability of the killer.

The talk too was of the terrible reality that this was the worst killing of Jews in American history. But there were no calls to remove the gun from the US Constitution and from the streets and homes of America.

Even now, no one here believes that the legacy of the 11 Jews who died whilst going about their prayers will be the termination of the right of US citizens to bear arms.

In this electoral season, the gun lobby uses its massive funds to ensure that those who dare to suggest such a thing, never get to sit beneath the Capitol Dome in Washington or ever get to raise such a thing, let alone vote on it.

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