The politics behind gun violence in the US

Gun Rights

The gun death rate in the US is much higher than in most other nations
Image Credit: Gulf News

On Jan. 4 of this year, 8 people including children were mercilessly gunned down and killed by a shooter who then turned the gun on himself to evade capture. This happened in an all-American town of Cedar City, Utah where such things are relatively unheard of. In that the community was shocked goes beyond saying.

Fast forward to July of this year and just last weekend, at least 33 people had been shot as a result of gun violence with six fatal shootings in the city of Chicago, a large metropolis that sits midway of the US continent. During this period, there have been more than a hundred such incidences across the country where innocent people became targeted randomly and became unfortunate victims.

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These are questions that do not seem to have an answer from the more than 500 elected representatives to the US Congress nor to the 100 senators that represent the people of the states. A study by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in the US and the Office of National Statistics in the UK (ONS), along with the findings of the Australian Institute of Criminology has revealed unsurprising findings.

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Assault weapons ownership

The US leads with more than 80 per cent of homicides — a direct result of guns, while it is nearly 4 per cent in the UK and 11 per cent in Australia. These findings have been substantiated by facts and do not leave any room for argument.

A Swiss-based research project named the Small Arms Survey in 2018 estimated that there were 390 million guns in circulation in the US, while their population was around 330 million. In other words, more than one gun per individual, man, woman, and child. Another study found that 7.5 million US adults became proud owners of guns between January 2019 and April 2021.

Now it would be folly to assume that all these guns are little handguns used for personal protection. On the contrary, assault rifles and automatics are the choice of most of gun owners and with few state restrictions, many have proudly added to their collection of assault firearms. Only 10 of the fifty states have some sort of restrictions against assault weapons ownership, while three others regulate ownership.

But in the rest of America, in those thirty-seven other states, an individual can handily own all types of firearms, some with overkill capacity and none is the wiser. Factually, most mass shootings have generally occurred with the perpetrator heavily armed with assault weaponry.

Special interest groups and NRA’s clout

So, the question then arises then, why no gun control? Why is it possible for someone as young as 18 years able to march to the nearest gun store in the 37 states and pick up a gun of his choice without little control?

While there has been a lot of noise in recent years following the increase of mass shootings for the government to have stricter laws for gun ownership, unfortunately, success has been incremental as politics and big money step in.

People outside the United States can be forgiven for believing that the US is a truly democratic country, one that is for the people and run by the people. Sadly, such is not the case today as interest groups are what is steering that country to an undetermined destiny.

Even the voices of more than half of the people in the country who favour strict gun control fall on the deaf ears of avaricious politicians who are more in tune with the whims of their backers, the special interest groups, than their loyalty to their voters.

Time and time again, several proposals for stricter laws including some pushed by US Presidents have been successfully quashed by US lawmakers, many of whom are undoubtedly grateful for the financial support they garner from their backers.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) with a membership of over 5 million gun lovers was created to promote and encourage gun usage, and lobbies heavily against all forms of gun control, arguing aggressively that more guns make the country safer.

The NRA is but one of the many powerful interest groups today that dictate domestic and foreign policy, some of which clearly run in conflict with the interest of the people. The manipulation of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, has indeed given the callous few the right to line their pockets regardless of consequences.

Such is the politics behind gun violence.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena

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