Dutch government ‘concerned’ about US gun violence after soldier killed

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Dutch authorities are “very concerned” about the level of gun violence in the United States, the Dutch defense minister said on Tuesday, after an incident over the weekend in which three Dutch special operations forces were shot in Indianapolis and one died of her injuries.

Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren told reporters in Prague, where she met her European Union counterparts, that the situation of the Netherlands’ “most important ally” had become worrying.

The three Dutch servicemen were from the Commando Corps, an elite special operations unit of the Royal Netherlands Army, and had traveled to the United States to train at a camp in southern Indiana. They were visiting Indianapolis while off duty and were shot outside their downtown hotel around 3:30 a.m. Saturday.

“We do a lot of training of our military in the United States, and we really don’t expect that to happen,” Ollongren said.

The Dutch reaction highlighted the chasm between the realities of gun violence in the United States and the Netherlands, two developed nations and NATO allies who cooperate on military matters but have very high levels of gun deaths. different. In the Netherlands, such a street shooting would be an anomaly. In the United States, it’s another weekend night.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett (D) told reporters Monday morning that the commandos could have been shot in a drive-by shooting after an argument at a bar, according to the Indianapolis Star.

“I don’t know the details of how it happened and what caused it,” Hogsett said. “The tragedy is that it happened. The tragedy is that people argued and they finally resolved that dispute by pulling out a gun and shooting.

One of the soldiers, identified by the Marion County Coroner’s Office as 26-year-old Simmie Poetsema, died two nights later from his injuries, the Dutch Ministry of Defense said in a press release on Monday. .

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The other two commandos have injuries that “are not currently considered life-threatening,” the Indianapolis Police Department said in a statement Monday. Dutch authorities said the commandos were “conscious and able to speak”.

Police have not identified any suspects and released no details of the investigation. “The release of certain investigative information could negatively impact the ability to obtain justice in this case,” the ministry statement said.

Poetsema’s family flew to Indiana when they learned of the shooting and were at the soldier’s bedside in an Indianapolis hospital when he died.

The shooting and death of Poetsema sent shock waves through the Dutch army, according to Major Mark van de Beek, spokesman for the Royal Netherlands Army. Dutch troops train in the United States because of the wider range of facilities, he told The Washington Post. Training is on hiatus at the moment, he said.

The Dutch soldiers had been training at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, a “prime training facility” about 80 miles southeast of Indianapolis, Guard spokesman Master Sergeant Jeff Lowry wrote. Indiana National, in an email.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to his Dutch counterpart on Monday to offer his “sincere condolences”.

“My thoughts are with their families and their teammates,” he said. wrote on Twitter after the call.

Gun violence in the United States has increased in recent years. Gun purchases hit record highs in 2020 and 2021, with more than 43 million firearms estimated to have been purchased during that period, according to analysis by the Post. More than 45,000 gun deaths have been recorded in each of the past two years, and the rate of gun deaths has reached its highest level since 1995.

The staggering scale of gun deaths in the United States goes far beyond mass shootings

The United States’ “intentional homicide” rate was seven times that of the Netherlands in 2020, the latest year for which the United Nations has statistics on the two countries. The gun violence death rate was nearly 18 times higher in the United States than in the Netherlands in 2019, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

In July, the Republican-controlled state government of Indiana removed the requirement that people must have a license to legally carry, conceal or transport a handgun in the state. Hoggett, the Democratic mayor of Indianapolis, said he is working to reduce gun violence in the city, which has seen record violence in 2021. As of August 22, the city had recorded 133 criminal homicides so far this year, according to the Indianapolis Star tracker.

The numbers represent a 17% reduction from a year ago, Hogsett pointed out Monday. “We’re making progress,” he said, according to the Indianapolis Star.

By comparison, the Netherlands recorded 121 victims of murder or manslaughter nationwide in 2020, the last year for which the government’s statistics office released figures.

Dutch gun laws are much stricter than those in the United States. It is illegal to possess or use firearms and other weapons in the Netherlands without a special weapons permit. Only people who have been granted an exemption from the ban – for sport, hunting or participation in historical re-enactments, for example – can legally acquire firearms, after undergoing psychological tests and background checks .

The Dutch government warns that traveling to the United States can present certain dangers. “A lot of people own a gun,” reads a government website. “It is legal in most states to carry a gun in public. Gun violence is widespread across the country.

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