WASHINGTON — Survivors and relatives of victims of US shootings marked the fifth anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre Monday by calling on Congress to “put an end to this madness” of gun violence.
The anniversary of the worst school shooting in US history, in which 32 students and faculty died, comes at a moment of intense debate over US gun laws, race relations and the right to self-defense.
“Today, 32 more will be murdered by guns in our nation. Yes, another Virginia Tech will happen today, like it happens every day,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told reporters outside the US Capitol, backed by a symbolic 32 survivors and relatives of victims from various massacres and shooting sprees.
“And that’s why we’re here to say enough is enough, and to hold the people who do their work in that building behind us accountable to put an end to this madness.”
Virginia Tech was the scene of the worst school shooting in US history when Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old Virginia Tech student born in South Korea, shot to death 32 fellow classmates and teachers before killing himself.
Gross and a US congressman from the district where the university is located put the blame for the proliferation of firearms and the high level of US gun violence squarely on the powerful gun lobby.
“Americans need to ask: where is the outrage?” congressman Jim Moran said, citing figures that show more than 100,000 people are shot — and 12,000 murdered — with a firearm each year in the United States.
“Guns permeate our culture,” Moran said. And despite the overwhelming number of them, “the National Rifle Association (NRA)… believes the answer to that gun violence that those guns generate is, even more guns.”
The NRA has been extremely successful in undermining gun controls. Some 40 US states now have permissive concealed weapon laws, up from just two in 1981.
“Here in Congress and in far too many state houses across the country, their side is in fact winning, loosening already porous gun laws, and blocking passage of any sensible gun control measures,” Moran said.
The issue has surged to the fore in recent weeks with the shooting death of a 17-year-old African-American, Trayvon Martin, in Florida by a self-described neighborhood watch guard.