Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged Washington to live up to its obligations to protect its citizens from the “horrifyingly commonplace but preventable violent attacks that are the direct result of insufficient gun control.”
Gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded another 53 before he was killed when police stormed the Pulse, one of Orlando’s most prominent gay venues, early Sunday.
“It is hard to find a rational justification that explains the ease with which people can buy firearms, including assault rifles, in spite of prior criminal backgrounds, drug use, histories of domestic violence and mental illness, or direct contact with extremists – both domestic and foreign,” Zeid said in a statement.
“How many more mass killings of school-children, of co-workers, of African-American churchgoers… will it take before the United States adopts robust gun regulation?” he asked.
He refuted the kind of justification for easy access to arms propagated by the likes of the US National Rifle Association (NRA), whose members argue that the bad guys will always get hold of guns so the good guys should have them too.
“Irresponsible pro-gun propaganda suggests that firearms make society safer, when all evidence points to the contrary,” Zeid said. “The ready availability of guns leaves little space between murderous impulses and actions that result in death.”
A new UN human rights report on the civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms highlights the devastating impact of gun violence, he said.
“Examples from many countries clearly show that a legal framework to control the acquisition and use of firearms has led to a dramatic reduction in violent crime,” the UN rights chief stressed.
“In the United States, however, there are hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, and every year thousands of people are killed or injured by them.”
The slaughter in Orlando has raised new questions in the US about its gun laws and its counterterror strategy.
The FBI said it had investigated Mateen, a US citizen of Afghan descent, but cleared him of extremist ties. Nevertheless Mateen legally bought a rifle and a handgun.
US President Barack Obama swiftly demanded that the Republican-controlled Congress pass legislation to curb the sale of assault-type weapons like the one used by Mateen.
“We make it very easy for individuals who are troubled or disturbed or want to engage in violent acts to get very powerful weapons very quickly,” Obama said.