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California shootings renew firearms debate in US

11 December 2015

PA

Support: messages of encouragement are displayed at an interfaith memorial service at the Islamic Community Center in Loma Linda, California, on Sunday

Support: messages of encouragement are displayed at an interfaith memorial service at the Islamic Community Center in Loma Linda, California, on Sunda...

A CHRISTIAN who fled to the United States to escape persecution in Iran was among at least 14 victims of a mass shooting at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, California, last week.

A married couple are reported to have opened fire on a gathering of employees at the San Bernardino public-health department, in the Inland Regional Centre, which provides disability services, on Wednesday of last week.

Investigations are still under way. Police believe, however, that Syed Rizwan Farook, a 28-year-old health inspector, left the party after a dispute, and returned with his wife Tashfeen Malik, aged 27, to carry out the attack. Both were killed by police after a short car chase.

The family of one of the victims, Benneta Betbadal, aged 46, said in a statement that she had left Iran in 1969 to “escape Islamic extremism and the persecution of Christians that followed the Iranian Revolution”. Friends wrote on a fundraising page set up for her children that her death was “the ultimate irony”.

The community at the Church in the Woods, in Lake Arrowhead, San Bernardino, are raising money to help the family of Mike Raymond Wetzel, aged 37, another of those killed in the attack. He leaves behind a wife and six children aged one to 11. The church stayed open all day and night the day after the attack for those who wished to pray for the family.

Speaking on Thursday of last week, President Obama made the point that he has made repeatedly after mass shootings, that it is “just too easy” for individuals to get hold of the weaponry to carry out attacks. “We cannot just leave it to our professionals to deal with horrible killings. We all have to deal with it,” he said. He later spoke of the right to buy firearms as “a law that needs to be changed”.

Reports suggest that one of the suspects, Ms Malik, who was born in Pakistan, moved to the US in July 2014, and married a month later. A US official, speaking anonymously, told the Associated Press agency that she had used a Facebook alias to praise Islamic State, or Daesh.

In the wake of the attacks, the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called on Tuesday for a “total and complete shutdown” of US borders to all Muslims. His comment was widely condemned.

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