Is gun machismo destabilizing the US with paranoia and murder?

Gun Rights

The pandemic inspired a gun-buying surge. Americans purchased approximately 60 million guns between 2020 and 2022, according to The Trace, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that tracks gun violence. Gun deaths reached historic highs during this period.

This is a distinctive type of gun ownership, according to John Roman, a senior fellow at NORC, a research organization based at the University of Chicago.

Roman told The Hill, “It’s not a rifle stored away somewhere that you take out twice a year to go hunting. It’s a handgun, probably a semiautomatic handgun, that you keep in your bedside table or in your glove compartment, or that you maybe carry around with you.”

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“Five percent of Americans said they bought a gun for the first time during the pandemic, which is a huge number,” Roman said. Those buyers were younger and more likely to be renters, women and people of color. 

Just 3% of American adults own half of the nation’s firearms, according to a 2016 Harvard-Northeastern survey.

Results from the 2021 National Firearms Study, published in the Annals of Medicine, found that 7.5 million Americans became new gun owners between 2019 and 2021. But many Americans who already owned guns, nearly 20 million, bought more. 

A string of incidents has alarmed the nation. In one week, a 16-year-old kid in Kansas City, Missouri, was shot after going to the wrong address to pick up his brothers, a 20-year-old woman in New York state was killed after pulling into the wrong driveway and an 18-year-old high school cheerleader in Texas was shot after getting into the wrong car.

This has scared people who have jobs where door-knocking at a stranger’s home is essential (such as door-to-door sales, process serving and political outreach).

The Kansas City shooting has raised questions about racism. Andrew Lester, an 84-year-old white man, twice shot Ralph Yarl, a Black kid, after the teenager rang his doorbell. He said he was “scared to death.”

The shooter’s grandson, Klint Ludwig, said he’d had a close relationship with Lester but in the last several years they have “lost touch.” He said his grandfather has “become staunchly right-wing, further down the right-wing rabbit hole as far as doing the election-denying conspiracy stuff and COVID conspiracies and disinformation, fully buying into the Fox News, OAN kind of line.”

He said his grandfather has been immersed in “a 24-hour news cycle of fear and paranoia.”

Right-wing politicians, the gun lobby and the gun industry’s marketeers are constantly stoking this cycle. Donald Trump told the recent NRA convention that liberals “want to take away your guns while throwing open the jailhouse doors and releasing bloodthirsty criminals into your communities.”

There has definitely been an increase in violent crime across the country. Various media outlets and elected officials have blamed progressive prosecutors for this surge. However, a recent study of 65 major cities finds no evidence for this claim. This was a wide-ranging investigation conducted by the University of Toronto in collaboration with researchers from Rutgers University, Temple University, Loyola University of Chicago, and University of Missouri, St. Louis.

The vast majority of gun violence perpetrators and victims are young men. Sociologist Eric Madfis notes that males are socialized to respond differently than females to stress and perceived victimization He told Politico, “Women tend to internalize blame and frustration, while men tend to externalize it through acts of aggression.”

Domestic violence is a public health crisis in this country. Every month, an average of 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner.

We are facing an invigorated right-wing crusade promoting male supremacy and a patriarchal society where people adhere to strictly defined gender roles. The fierce fights against reproductive rights and LGBT rights is only the beginning.

It’s an uphill battle for right-wingers. But they have guns. 

In fact, four Republican members of Congress want to make the AR-15 “the national gun” (at the moment we don’t have one). The bill was introduced by Barry Moore of Alabama, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, George Santos of New York and Andrew Clyde of Georgia. The AR-15 has frequently been used by mass shooters.

You might remember Clyde as the guy who said the Jan. 6 events looked like “a normal tourist visit.” He has stood by that comment. During National Gun Violence Survivors Week, Clyde passed out lapel pins shaped like assault rifles. He also owns a gun store. Isn’t that cute?

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

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