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by Jennie S. Bev, Santa Clara

The recent Boston Marathon bombs that killed three and injured 175  were shocking. In the past decade, bombings have been rare, though gun violence causing mass killings and public panic in the US has increased in the past year.

“Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror. What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack and why, whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization — foreign or domestic — or was the act of a malevolent individual,” said US President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

At the time of writing this article, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had not made an official statement on suspects or motives behind the attack. Law enforcement officials and politicians are being careful not to create unnecessary confusion by keeping things low key until evidence has been gathered and a suspect has been officially identified.

This is a tragedy, but what could this attack symbolize?

The attack occurred on Patriots’ Day, a US holiday, in the historical city of Boston, at a sporting event. It killed innocent people, including at least one child, through two explosions in close proximity with homemade bombs. That there were two-explosions, and that there was possibly a pressure cooker used in one or both of the bombs, could be signatures of certain entities.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the US has been relatively spared from bombings. The only bombing that occurred post-9/11 was in 2004 by Dennis Mahon, a white supremacist. Mahon used a homemade bomb to attack Don Logan, an African-American city diversity director of Scottsdale, Arizona. There have also been several bomb scares. 

Pre-9/11, the US saw numerous bombings: the 1993 truck bomb at the World Trade Center; the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by right-wing extremist Timothy McVeigh and the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta by anti-abortion extremist Eric Rudolph. Considering these incidents, its too early to say whether Islamic terrorists are behind the Boston Marathon bombing.

The US itself has been experiencing an upsurge in gun violence in the past year. Whether that is now morphing into bombings remains unclear, but we cannot afford to experience more mass killings of innocent people in a nation where about 40 percent of US households own guns.

The FBI’s definition of mass murder is “a murder that kills four or more people”. According to the database of the news organization Mother Jones, mass killings occurred throughout the US, semi-automatic guns were used in 75 percent of incidents, assault weapons were used in 40 percent of incidents, 79 percent of guns were obtained legally and no armed civilian fought back, with 2012 being the worst year for “mass killings."

Seven mass shootings in the US occurred in 2012. In February, Jeong Soon Paek shot two of his sisters and their husbands in Atlanta, Georgia. Jeong then killed himself. In April, One L. Goh opened fire in a nursing classroom, and killing seven in Oakland, California.

In May, Ian Stawicki shot four café customers, injured one and then killed himself in Seattle, Washington. In July, James Holmes killed 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. In August, a US Army veteran Wade Michael Page opened fire at a Sikh temple before shooting himself, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Page killed six.

In September in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Andre Engeldinger shot a business owner, three employees and a UPS driver after being fired. He then also killed himself. In December in Newton, Connecticut, Adam Lanza shot his own mother at home and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, before turning the gun on himself. 

Stephen King, the best-selling author, wrote in the ebook Guns that he supports gun control. As an author of numerous books on death and violence, he felt he had a moral obligation to remove one of his books — titled Rage — from bookstores because it had inspired some individuals with mental issues to hurt others.

Aggressive gun control must be imposed immediately and deterrents must established to reduce gun and bomb violence. Despite US nationwide criminal databases, stricter rules on who can purchase guns and how can be licensed for gun ownership must be updated.

More than four decades ago, in 1972, the US Surgeon General issued a warning on the strong causal relationship between televised violence and antisocial behavior, which included violence. Recent violence-laden video games even “train” players to kill in a virtual reality.

King writes, “About 80 people die of gunshot wounds in the US every day.” This is a lesson for all of mankind. Tragedies like these must be stopped.[]

The Jakarta Post, April 18, 2013

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