There has long been a war of words over gun control in the United States. The issue has waxed and waned over the years, stirred by frequent mass shootings in civilian settings. With every third adult in the States retaining a gun for protection, there has been a massive rise in gun violence ranging from rising murder rates in some major cities to mass shootings.
According to a pew research report, the country has seen some of the worst gun violence in its history with around 20,000 Americans losing their lives to guns, the highest toll in more than two decades. Considering the recent Texas shooting episode, the trend looks likely to continue through 2022 as well. A couple of days ago, around 19 children and two teachers were forced to breathe last after a gunman opened fire at the Robb Elementary School in the city of Uvalde, Texas. Police confirmed that the accused 18-year-old high school boy had a handgun, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, and possessed high-capacity magazines which he also used to kill his grandmother exactly before the rampage. The accused was later shot dead.
Meanwhile, the families of the children aged between 7 to 10 who lost their lives in the massacre have been left to weep over the tragedy which was neither their mistake nor their children’s mistake. The only fault was that of the 18-year-old boy who possessed a gun, probably for self-protection. While personal protection tops the list of reasons why gun owners say they own a firearm, a similar incident happened to an Indian lady who had travelled to the US for a family function. She was gun attacked by two American men who robbed her and left her with zero money in the alien land.
Arpita Patel, a resident of Thane, was mugged at gunpoint during her travel to the United States
The episode dates back to April 12, when Arpita Patel, a resident of Thane, Maharashtra had travelled to the US to meet her relatives and attend a small family gathering there. She had travelled to Atlanta and had plans to visit Canada to meet her extended family. At the Atlanta Airport, her cousin picked her up and the duo headed home. Around 20 mins after they left the airport, Patel’s cousin thought of grabbing some food on the way. They arrived at a restaurant named ‘The Halal Guys’ downtown and parked the car on the street. He asked the lady to stay in the car and walked towards the restaurant to collect the food parcels.
The man had not even walked 100 steps when 2 American men with guns in hand arrived at the spot and threatened Patel to get off the car. They snatched her small bag in which she had preserved all her legal documents including the passport. The attackers hurt her in the neck and fled away with the car that contained all her luggage, money and gold jewellery. Patel was devastated and took a few minutes to get the hang of the situation. She was just left with one sock, a jacket and a pair of shoes.
Patel then immediately contacted the local police and sought help. She told them that all her legal documents had gone and that she wanted them back at any cost. The Police registered an official complaint and assured to nab the attackers. Patel also contacted the Indian Embassy and sought help to return to India. The Embassy officers listened to her and helped her by all means.
The incident came to light when Patel recently returned from the United States on May 22 and shared her experience on her Facebook wall. “I was temporarily shattered and devastated. All my luggage, and backpack which is a world to travellers as it contains passport, cash, and other documents was gone. The only thing that was left with me was my life and hope”, she said in the post. She also lauded the Indian Embassy for the help that they provided and mentioned her gloomy experience with the local US Police.
‘They robbed my USD 1500, gold jewellery, and all my luggage’: Arpita Patel to OpIndia
Team OpIndia contacted Arpita Patel to know the exact trail of incidents. She narrated the entire horror episode and said that the only thing that kept her stronger during that moment was the memory of her family members and herself. “We reached the Halal Guys restaurant 20 minutes after we left the Atlanta Airport”, she started. “My cousin went to get the food parcel and unfortunately had left the car doors unlocked. I was the only one in the car. As soon as he entered the restaurant, two African American boys entered the car- one from the driver’s seat and the other one from the back door. The one on the driver’s seat had a gun. He pointed the gun at me and yelled- Go, go, go, go. That is the only conversation I heard from him. He wanted me to get out of the car. I resisted”, she said.
“He then snatched my backpack and hurt me in the neck while snatching. They both then tried to run away with my backpack that had all my documents and my money. I got off the car and started to run behind them as I wanted all my documents back. I also injured my left leg in the momentum. But one of them smartly entered the car again and drove away from the entire car. I lost all my luggage. Fortunately, I had my mobile phone in my pocket. We called 911 and the local police. They arrived. We helped them with all the locations and the car was tracked after an hour or so. Though we found the car, it was all empty. They robbed my USD 1500, my gold jewellery, and all my bags except what they left me was my jacket, my shoes, my voter ID card, and a short ‘I Love You’ note written by my daughter”.
Indian Embassy helped her get the new passport within 3 days
Patel said that her experience with the local police was not at all good but the Indian Embassy helped her throughout. “We called the Indian Embassy. They were very kind to us. One of the officials of the Embassy named Manjeet Singh first confirmed whether I had a place to stay. I was sobbing as I was in some sort of trauma after the incident. I told him that nothing was to worry about my stay as I had my cousin’s place to stay. He guided me to a link and asked me to get a few documents. Though I had lost all my documents physically, I had them preserved as soft copies. After a few days, I went back to the embassy with the prints and met the head officer there. I explained to him the entire matter. He was also kind and approved all my papers within 3 minutes. And within the next three days, I was handed over a valid 10-year Indian passport from America. This is something that I’ll never forget. The Indian Embassy was an angel to me”, she added.
Lack of action by the US Police
When asked about the Police case, Patel said that the local police had identified a suspect but had not nabbed him. She added that though the police officers claim that they are investigating, she has not received any progressive updates on the case. “When we called the Police, they arrived but failed to trace the location of the car. It was me and my cousin helping them by tracking the location of the AirPods that we had left in the car. Even in the latter days after the police recovered the car, I kept on giving them updates of the locations of the robbers who had taken away the AirPods, but no action was taken. They caught one of the suspects but released him saying that his fingerprints didn’t match with the one they had collected from the spot”, she said.
“Not only that, I was continuously tracking the movement of my AirPods which the robber had stolen. I could see that they stayed in a house, the address and location of which I had sent to the police immediately. But again, they could not find anything”, she stated adding that there was zero help offered by the US government. She also opined that if anything like this would have happened to a US tourist in India, the Indian government would have definitely helped and sorted the matter. She, however, reiterated that the Indian Embassy was kind and that it was the only one who had rushed to her rescue in the alien land.
Patel meanwhile also warned the solo travellers to be safe and keep the duplicate document copies and soft copies preserved. She added that it’s very easy for the people in the US to keep guns and that in such situations of gun violence, the first contact point must be the Embassy as they lend a helping hand in real disastrous situations’.
The United States’ gun policy
Access to guns in the United States is controlled by law under several federal statutes. As of 2021, the data by the Pew Research Center suggests that gun sales in the United States have risen in recent years, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. While there are differences in increased gun ownership rates by political party affiliation, gender, geography, and other factors, gun owners argue that the Second Amendment of the US Constitution is significant and that it should not be infringed on any legislation.
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The First Amendment is freedom of speech.
According to the Pew Research Center report, one of the key and defining characteristics of gun owners is that they associate the right to own guns with their sense of freedom. Around 74 per cent of gun owners say this is essential. The other main reason cited by gun owners is personal protection. Also, the survey report by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey reveals that the United States which houses less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, has 46 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.
Further, the research report says that around 48 per cent of Americans see gun violence as a huge problem. Some of them even are demanding stricter laws against the usage of guns considering that attitudes about gun violence differ widely by race, ethnicity, party, and community type. While Americans are divided over whether restricting legal gun ownership would lead to fewer mass shootings and gun violence, it is wise for outsiders to stay alert and safe, especially while on travel.