– It has been a bloody few days in America. There is no evidence that it has been any bloodier than usual, but some of the crimes committed have been unusual enough to have added even more fuel to the fire of the gun control debate.
Last Tuesday in Alabama, Jimmy Lee Dykes, a Vietnam veteran, shot dead a bus driver and then took a five-year-old boy hostage in a bunker. “He son’t care too much for the government,” said local police chief James Arrington. The siege has not yet been broken.
Two days later a prosecutor in Texas was gunned down in a car park near his office in the small town of Kaufman. Two masked gunmen escaped. Police are investigating the possible involvement of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang.
On Saturday, America’s most celebrated military sniper, Chris Kyle – a 38-year-old former Navy SEAL who is reported to have killed as many as 225 people as a sniper in Iraq – was shot dead at a Texas gun range along with his friend, Chad Littlefield, 35.
Police have arrested and charged another veteran, Eddie Ray Routh. it is understood Routh had been visiting the gun range with Mr Kyle, who sometimes took fellow veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder shooting as a means of support.
This last shooting would appear to contradict the National Rifle Association’s position that places where more people carry guns are safer than what it calls “gun-free zones”, such as schools and churches, where guns are often banned.
Appearing on FOX News on Sunday morning, the NRA’s controversial chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, did not answer a question about Mr Kyle’s murder, instead saying children could be kept safe only by putting armed guards in all schools.
A recent NRA as accusing President Barack Obama of being an elitist hypocrite for wanting to introduce gun control laws – including a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines – while his own daughters are protected by armed guards, attracted significant controversy.
The debate also spilled into the Super Bowl on Sunday with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the advocacy group founded by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, airing an advertisement that showed old footage of Mr LaPierre saying he supported universal mandatory background checks for people trying to buy guns.
The NRA now opposes such checks, which Mr LaPierre recently described as an unworkable universal federal nightmare bureaucracy, even though polls show most of the NRA’s members support them.
Last week the White House released a photograph of the President firing a shotgun, apparently to show that he was not against all ownership.
Mr Kyle survived four tours of duty in Iraq before retiring and writing his autobiography, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in US Military History. Later he said he did not want to write about the number of kills he was credited with in the book, but rather, the number of American soldiers he says he saved – Nick O’Malley