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People participate in a vigil for victims behind the theatre where a gunman opened fire on moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado July 22, 2012. (SHANNON STAPLETON/Reuters)
People participate in a vigil for victims behind the theatre where a gunman opened fire on moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado July 22, 2012. (SHANNON STAPLETON/Reuters)

Globe editorial

America’s lax gun laws contribute to tragedies in other countries Add to ...

America’s permissive gun laws, fetishized in their laxness as the epitome of American freedom by the powerful National Rifle Association, are a common denominator in mass shootings around the world. From Aurora, Colo., to Norway to Toronto and Mexico, the stubborn refusal to link the worldwide availability of American-supplied semi-automatic weapons, accessories and ammunition to tragedy after tragedy is a black mark.

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In the case of the Aurora killer, James E. Holmes was able to order 6,350 rounds of various types of ammunition over the Internet without triggering any alarms. He may as well have been ordering housewares. He also acquired, unnoticed, a high-capacity machine-gun magazine that holds 100 bullets, plus bullet-proof pants and a vest, knives and magazine holders. His case is similar to that of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, who killed 76 people a year ago. Breivik outlined in his “manifesto” how he purchased 10 30-round magazines – an item necessary to his goal of mass slaughter that was not available in Norway because of its rigid gun controls – from an indifferent American supplier via the Internet.

In Mexico, which has strict gun laws, the drug cartels have armed themselves like a paramilitary operation with easily available American assault weapons and used them to kill hundreds of innocent people. In Canada, a rising tide of American weapons spilling over the border is defeating the country’s attempts at gun control.

The biggest tragedy, of course, is in the U.S., where only killings on the scale of Aurora now make the national news but as many as 15,000 die in gun homicides every year. The NRA’s argument is that tighter controls would impinge on the constitutional right to bear arms without stopping mass killings. Their proof? Countries with strict gun controls like Canada, Norway and Mexico. It is time to start forcefully arguing the reverse: that gun controls do prevent mass shootings in these countries and, in fact, gun homicides in general – the rate of gun homicides per 100,000 people in the U.S. is almost four times that of Canada – and that the controls would be even more effective if they were not being sabotaged by American constitutional literal-mindedness.

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