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UN Rights Chief: US Gun Laws Lack 'Rational Justification'

FILE - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Zeid said the ease with which people in the United States are able to buy firearms, including assault rifles, defies all reason.

United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein is urging the United States to adopt strong gun control measures to protect its citizens from the kind of violence that killed 49 people and wounded more than 50 others in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida Sunday.

High Commissioner Zeid said the ease with which people in the United States are able to buy firearms — including battlefield-caliber assault rifles — defies all reason. He pointed out that almost anyone in the U.S. — including people with prior criminal records, histories of domestic violence, mental illness or drug abuse, or direct contact domestic or foreign extremists — has no trouble purchasing high-powered weapons designed to kill large numbers of humans quickly.

“It is hard to find a rational justification that explains the ease with which people can buy firearms,” he said. “How many more mass killings of school-children, of co-workers, of African-American churchgoers — how many more individual shootings of talented musicians like Christina Grimmie, or politicians like Gabrielle Giffords, will it take before the United States adopts robust gun regulation?”

A July 2015 U.N. report on the civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms highlighted the “devastating impact” of gun violence on human rights.

His spokesman, Rupert Colville, said the most vulnerable communities and minorities are paying a high price for the failure of politicians to stand up to gun rights supporters. The powerful U.S. gun lobby, led chiefly by the National Rifle Association, has fought off numerous gun control efforts in the country, even after deadly attacks like the Orlando massacre that caught the attention of the nation.

“Irresponsible pro-gun propaganda suggests that firearms make society safer, when all the evidence points to the contrary," said Colville. "In the high commissioner’s words, the ready availability of guns leaves little space between murderous impulses and actions that result in death. The journey between hate-filled beliefs and violent hate crimes is accelerated.”

The high commissioner said it is particularly reprehensible that the Orlando massacre is already being utilized to promote homophobic and Islamophobic sentiments. Spokesman Colville told VOA it is irresponsible and dangerous for U.S. politicians to blame mass killings on Muslim terrorists and to call for a ban on Muslims entering the country.

“Many of the killings in the United States are white male non-Muslim gunmen," said Colville. "So, I think to pick on just a few Muslim cases and make that appear like it is a general problem is utterly pernicious.”

The U.N. refugee agency rejects suggestions by some politicians that refugees are likely terrorists and should not be allowed to resettle in the U.S. UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told VOA all refugees are extensively vetted before they arrive in the U.S.

He said refugees are not terrorists, but people fleeing conflict and guns, and are in need of protection.