When Will The American Gun Violence Epidemic End? – OpEd

Gun Rights

Time and again, we are heartbroken by the news of another mass shooting. In the city of Monterey Park, a close suburb of Los Angeles, a shooter opened fire at a ballroom dance class on Saturday night, killing at least 10 people and injured many more. The incident took place soon after a Chinese New Year celebration in the area had ended. There is still no sign of the shooter, and no motive has been established. 

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a mass shooting is one in which four or more people are shot, and the Monterey incident is the 33rd such shooting to occur in the US since the year’s commencement. It comes after gunshots that occurred during MLK Day celebrations in Fort Pierce, Florida, and Goshen, California, both of which resulted in six fatalities.  The shooting in Monterey comes after a string of similar incidents in the past year, including those at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a shooting on a school bus that may have been directed at members of the University of Virginia football team, a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

No other high-income nation has experienced such a high gun death toll. An average of 40,620 Americans every year, including homicides and suicides, perish at the hands of a gun. Since 2009, there have been 19 shootings on average per year with at least four fatalities. The US gun suicide rate is roughly 12 times greater than that of comparable high-income nations, and its gun homicide rate might be up to 26 times higher.

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Opponents of gun regulation frequently portray the prevalence of gun violence in the US as a sign of a larger mental health issue. However, extremists and those with mental health disorders are a concern in every nation. What makes the US special is its broad view of civilian gun ownership, which has been engrained in politics, society, and the law since the country’s establishment, as well as a national political system that has so far been unable to alter this standard. For the first time in nearly 30 years, Congress secured an agreement on modest gun regulations last year. However, the recent massacres highlight how pervasive gun violence is in the US.

Since there is no national database where people may register whether they own weapons and because there are no effective federal regulations against gun trafficking, it is difficult to determine the quantity of privately owned guns in America. According to one estimate from the Small Arms Survey, a research organization with Swiss roots, there were about 390 million guns in use in the US in 2018, or about 120.5 guns for every 100 citizens. Given that one in five households bought a gun during the epidemic, it is likely that this percentage has increased during the intervening years. However, even without taking that rise into account, US gun ownership remains well above that of any other nation: Only 52.8 weapons are owned per 100 people in Yemen, which has the second-highest gun ownership rate in the world, compared to 31.7 in Iceland.

According to a Harvard and Northeastern University research from 2016, a tiny fraction of households—just 3 percent—own about half of all the country’s firearms. They are known as “super owners,” and they each have an average of 17 firearms. In 2021, according to Gallup’s analysis of data using a different technique, 42% of all American households had access to firearms.

There is no doubt that there is a connection between gun ownership in the US and gun violence, and some researchers even claim that this connection is causal. For instance, a 2013 study from Boston University revealed that the state firearm homicide rate rose by 0.9 percent for every percentage point increase in gun ownership at the household level. According to a research released in January by the pro-gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety, states with laxer gun laws also have greater incidence of gun-related killings and suicides.

In comparison to the association between violence and mental health conditions, the link between gun deaths and gun ownership is substantially greater. According to a study by Duke University professor Jeffrey Swanson, who looks at measures to minimize gun violence, if it were possible to cure all cases of schizophrenia, bipolar illness, and depression, violent crime in the US would decrease by only 4%.

The “good person with a gun” hypothesis, promoted by gun manufacturers and gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association, is still widely believed to be the solution to ending gun violence in America. However, a 2021 study from Hamline University and Metropolitan State University found that in the 133 mass school shootings that occurred between 1980 and 2019 where an armed guard was present, the rate of fatalities was 2.83 times higher.

One of the things that distinguishes the American gun rights movement from movements in countries like Canada and Australia is the prominence of the self-defense narrative. The hunting component of American gun culture has been overshadowed in modern times by the heavily politicized idea that owning a gun is an expression of freedom, individuality, hostility to government, and personal self-protection. American gun culture “brings together the hunting-sporting tradition with the militia-frontier tradition. After mass shootings, it has become more challenging to consider real policy solutions to gun violence due to the culture of gun ownership in the US. Mass shootings have historically mobilized popular support for gun restriction measures that, by US standards, would seem excessive in high-income nations lacking that culture.

Two weeks after a major massacre in Nova Scotia in 2020, Canada outlawed assault guns with military-style magazines. Legislators in New Zealand authorized a gun buyback program, limits on AR-15s and other semiautomatic weapons, and a firearms registry in 2019, less than a month after the shooting in Christchurch. Murders and suicides decreased as a result of the government purchasing 650,000 weapons within a year after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Australia. In comparison, it took nearly ten years for Congress to enact new gun control legislation following the 2012 school tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the law passed in June 2022, was relatively limited: it did not ban any types of weapons, instead incentivizing states to enact new measures meant to limit who can access guns.

In a nation that still battles a pandemic of gun violence, the resolve of the US government to do everything in its power to stop these tragedies from happening must be a part of healing. The US govt. must act to stop both high-profile mass shootings and the daily gun deaths. 

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