United States is killing itself, warn Swiss press

Police officers stand at the scene of the mass shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, on October 1, 2017 Keystone

Leading Swiss newspapers have condemned the Las Vegas mass shooting, while calling for long overdue gun controls to prevent similar killings in the future. However, most editorials were resigned to the fact that America’s gun laws are unlikely to change in the near future despite the carnage. 

This content was published on October 3, 2017 - 09:26

On Monday, a gunman on the 32nd floor of a Vegas Strip casino opened fire on people at an outdoor country music festival below. The shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock, killed 59 people as tens of thousands of concertgoers ran for their lives. A total of 527 were also injured. 

Leading with the headline ‘America is killing itself’, the Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung said the situation following this latest rampage was clear: “[America’s] lax gun laws are unlikely to change this time. However, some changes are long overdue.”

The NZZ editorial reminded readers that mass shootings were part of everyday life in America and that the Las Vegas incident was the 272nd mass shooting of the year.

However, following each shooting the same scenario unfolds, it added: “The country is shocked, flags fly at half-mast, expressions of solidarity are shared on social networks. There are calls for stricter gun laws, but the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) uses it lobbying in Washington to nip the demands in the bud. And the very same politicians who will travel to the crime scene today and comfort relatives of the victims will tomorrow oppose stricter gun laws…nothing changes.” 

President Donald Trump condemned the largest mass shooting in modern US history as an "act of pure evil" and declared the nation would unite behind the survivors. But he refused to get into a new debate over gun control.

Calls for change 

The French-language daily The Tribune de Genève was also doubtful the latest incident would result in change. 

It wrote: “In a Congress controlled by pro-gun Republicans, the emotion provoked by the vision of 59 deaths at a concert will probably fade as it did after the shooting of Sandy Hook, when twenty children and six adults were shot dead on 14 December 2012… America is not ready to give up its taste for weapons.”

The German-language newspaper Tages-Anzeiger said a radical change of thinking was needed in Washington, especially among Republicans, to break the power of gun lobbies and to reform US gun laws. 

However, Trump will be careful not to criticise the NRA, said the paper: “The NRA represents an important part of [the Republicans’] political base and is an indispensable ally in upcoming election campaigns.”

Despite this entrenched situation, some tightening of US gun laws is “obvious”, the NZZ wrote. It said Americans on no-fly lists should be prevented from buying guns as well as anyone undergoing psychological treatment. And the number of guns owned by an individual should be limited, it said. There are currently over 300 million guns owned privately in the US.

“Depression, shock and despair”

In a report from Las Vegas several hours after the shooting, the Swiss public television (SRF) correspondent Peter Düggeli described the “depression, shock and despair” of hotel guests and tourists at the Mandalay Hotel where the gunman had opened fire.

“Outside, I can see the window on the 32nd floor,” he said. “The shooter smashed it before pulling the trigger. He had 19 rifles with him, some automatic weapons. The room’s curtain blows in the wind; there is ghostly silence. It's surreal. It’s difficult to get my head around the fact that I’m standing where a hail of bullets hit hundreds of people a few hours ago, killing almost 60. All innocent music fans.” 

He adds: “This heinous act will change the city. October 1,2017 will be burned into our collective memory. This is the message I keep hearing from people here, over and over."

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