ON the day that John Albert Laylo, a promising lawyer, died a senseless death in America, President Joe Biden fell off his bicycle at his Rehoboth Beach vacation home in Delaware.
Unconnected events? Laylo represents a billion-dollar sector that’s keeping America rich, and Biden has the power to strengthen the economy by keeping the US safe for visitors. That’s how the US can keep its position as the top global destination. In 2021, inbound tourism receipts in the US hit $69 billion despite the pandemic.
The Filipino lawyer was fatally shot in Philadelphia on Saturday, in a shooting incident initially described by police investigators as “mostly likely a case of mistaken identity.” Laylo and his mother, Leah, were reportedly on a 30-day trip in the US to visit family.
Reports said Laylo and his mother were heading to the airport when a shooter in a vehicle behind their rideshare car fired through the back windshield, striking Laylo in the back of the head and injuring his mother with broken glass. Investigators reportedly recovered at least a dozen cartridge casings from the scene.
Consul General Elmer Cato said PhiladelphiaMayor Jim Kenney has expressed shock and sorrow over the killing of Laylo. The mayor is offering a $20,000 reward for information that will lead to the arrest of the gunman.
From the Associated Press: “Senate bargainers reached agreement Tuesday on a bipartisan gun violence bill, potentially teeing up final passage by week’s end on an incremental but landmark package that would stand as Congress’ response to mass shootings in Texas and New York that shook the nation.”
Pundits said the agreed Senate bill is a diluted measure that does not include more potent proposals like total ban of assault-type weapons, prohibiting high-capacity magazines, and requiring background checks for all gun sales. They also doubted whether Congress could sustain momentum for the gun violence bill after lawmakers come back from a two-week July 4th recess.
America is currently experiencing a surge in gun violence. Mass shootings, where four or more people—not including the shooter—are injured or killed, have averaged more than one per day so far this year. The National Public Radio said that as of June 5, “America has already seen at least 246 mass shootings.” NPR said 38 have taken place since a rampage at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas left 19 children and two teachers dead on May 24.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation said there are about 20 million AR-style weapons in circulation in the US. They are part of a total 393 million guns owned by US civilians, more than the US population. These guns are killing Americans, and unfortunate visitors like Laylo, every single day. In 2020 alone, more than 45,000 Americans died at the end of a barrel of a gun, whether by homicide or suicide.
Is it safe to travel to the US? With the unabated and rising number of mass shootings, the answer should be obvious. Surprisingly, only Japan has warned its residents that the US is a “gun society.” In 2019, Japan’s Consulate General in Detroit issued a statement instructing Japanese citizens to “be aware of the potential for gunfire incidents everywhere in the United States.” The warning came following the deadly mass shootings in Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio.
There’s no stopping gun violence in America unless US authorities do something about the 393 million guns owned by US civilians, including the 20 million assault weapons in circulation. It would do well for other states to follow the initiative of the Miami police “seeking to get weapons off the streets—and into the hands of Ukrainian soldiers fighting Russian troops.” That was the stated goal of the “Guns 4 Ukraine” buyback program that the city’s police department recently launched. The Miami police are offering $50 for handguns, $100 for shotguns and $150 for “high-powered” rifles such as AK-47s or AR-15s. No questions asked. Just bring your guns to them.
A recent survey said 53 percent of Americans are highly concerned about gun violence every single day. Here’s the interesting part: Worry and fear are driving some people who were anti-gun to embrace firearms for protection. If this trend continues, we pray that America will become a truly safe place for everybody.