A 20-year-old man, Adam Peter Lanza, on Dec. 14 shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their Newtown home before fatally shooting 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He then took his own life. The Connecticut massacre was the fourth shooting rampage to claim multiple lives in the United States this year.
Şebnem Korur Fincancı, head of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), said mass shootings like the one in the US are very likely to be seen in Turkey soon if the country does not take measures to bring gun ownership under control and make it harder for people to own a gun.
She explained that mass shootings in the US took place mostly after the Vietnam War, which she said severely affected the mental state of many Americans, prompting them to resort to violence for no reason.
“There has been an ongoing war in Turkey for years as well. And people who are affected by this war are likely to resort to violence,” she told Sunday’s Zaman, referring to the years-long clashes between Turkish security forces and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which have claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people so far.
Recalling the massacre of six people in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak, where a man who was newly discharged from the military after serving in restive Hakkari province shot his wife and five of her family members to death with a rifle due to jealousy in 2009, Fincancı said such incidents could likely be seen more frequently when people have easy access to weapons.
She said she is in fact against individual gun rights altogether, in the belief that the ownership of guns contributes directly to violence and murder.
According to data from Umut Vakfı (Hope Foundation), which regularly reports on international efforts against light arms and campaigns for the drastic limitation of firearms in Turkey, there are currently 20 million guns in the country, and only a quarter of these guns are registered.
Berna Çapçıoğlu Pehlevan, a coordinator at the Hope Foundation, also fears that Turkey may see mass shootings like those witnessed in the US because she says access to firearms is as easy in Turkey as in the US.
She said unlicensed guns are used in most of the murders in Turkey, which are committed by the use of guns, and punishments handed down to the individuals who use unlicensed guns fall short of acting as a deterrent.
One has to have reached the age of 21 to obtain a licensed firearm in Turkey. If an individual is caught with an unlicensed gun, the gun will be seized. A prison sentence of one year is given to the person carrying the unlicensed gun, but is usually commuted to a fine of around TL 5,000.
According to Pehlevan, at a time when most young people in Turkey spend a lot of time on computers and avoid socializing in person with others, it is not difficult to guess how inclined they may be to resort to violence.
“The important thing is to take the necessary measures before an incident occurs and stop it,” she said.
In her view, if the US takes measures to bring gun ownership under control in the aftermath of the Connecticut massacre, this may set a good example for other countries, including Turkey.
US President Barack Obama vowed to press for tighter gun laws by next year, and announced that Vice President Joe Biden would lead an interagency effort, including several members of Obama’s cabinet, to craft new policies.
Biden’s group held its first meeting on Thursday.
Democrats in Congress who favor gun control have called for quick votes on measures to ban assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, hoping that the slaying of the 6 and 7 year olds in Newtown might be a tipping point to win over more lawmakers.