The brutal killing of three Black people by a white gunman in Jacksonville, Florida has once again brought under the spotlight the steep rise of neo-Nazism and white supremacist tendencies in the U.S.
The gunman used a military-grade assault rifle emblazoned with swastikas and left behind a manifesto saying he hated Black people, officials said.
The horrific attack – the latest in a wave of racially motivated killings in the U.S. in recent years – has triggered an outpouring of grief and anger on social media.
There are two underlying factors to the ongoing wave of violence in the U.S., namely the rise of far-right ideologies and the country’s lax gun control laws, the latter an issue that many U.S. politicians – especially Republicans – have declared off limits, even with mass shootings making headlines almost on the daily.
As for hate crimes and racially motivated attacks, recent official reports paint a particularly grim picture for the U.S.
A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report this March said there were more than 9,000 hate crimes in 2021, a jump of almost 12% from the previous year.
Nearly 65% of these incidents were based on race and ethnicity, according to the report.
Another FBI report two years ago said hate crimes in the U.S. had surged to their highest level since 2008.
Laws or lives?
Gun violence is now a permanent feature of life in the U.S.
Just this year, there have been more than 470 mass shootings – incidents with four or more casualties – across the country so far, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Its data shows these incidents have claimed over 14,600 lives and injured more than 25,400 people.
In this unceasing tide of violence, the gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution plays a huge part, as getting your hands on an assault rifle like the one used in the Jacksonville attack is nearly as easy as buying groceries in many states.
“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” reads the amendment, which lobby groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) point to as the basis for Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.
Legal minds and control advocates, on the other hand, point to the amendment’s mention of “well-regulated” to argue that tougher gun laws are well within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution.
However, over the years, the views of the NRA and similar groups have clearly prevailed.
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 48,830 people died from gun-related injuries in the country in 2021.
A report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions also had similar figures, saying “each day, an average of 134 people died from gun violence – one death every 11 minutes.”
A 2021 study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle showed that the U.S. ranks first, by a mile, in the rates of firearm homicides among high-income countries and territories with populations of 10 million or more.
According to the data, the U.S. leads with 4.12 firearm homicides per 100,000 people, with the closest contender being Chile at 1.82 armed homicides.
A peer-reviewed study published last year by the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice showed that mass shootings in the U.S. accounted for 73% of all incidents that occurred in developed countries between 1998 and 2019 and that 62% of all fatalities from the attacks also happened in the U.S.
The country with the closest number of mass shootings was France, with only eight attacks compared to 101 attacks in the U.S., leading to 179 deaths versus 816, respectively.