The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, again sparked the US national debate about its gun culture. The shooter killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde. However, it is not the only fatal event in recent times, even though it got profound media attention. Gun-related violence has become a daily occurrence in the USA. After a week in Texas, another mass shooting took place in Tulsa, producing five victims. Let’s revisit the US gun culture and its adverse impact on US society in this context. What is the statistical scenario looking like? And what are the main issues of the USA related to this gun culture?
Gun Violence in the USA
Gun violence in the US is related to its gun culture. ‘Keeping’ gun is a part of the US lifestyle. Civilians possessed guns throughout history and used them for self-defense and hunting. The tradition of ownership also goes back to the US civil war. Later, gun ownership also resulted in ‘Gun Politics’ encompassing gun rights or control. While conservatives call for gun rights to preserve the tradition of gun ownership, liberals advocate for stricter gun laws to minimize the violent crimes that are taking place by exploiting easy access to guns.
However, due to the gun culture, the USA has topped in civilian guns owing in the top. It now has 120 guns per 100 populations, a number even higher than Yemen- a country currently in one of the worst civil wars of our time. It seems the gun-owning has been growing in the USA for a while now as the graph is projecting an upward trend in favor of it. By 2011, it was 88 arms per 100 populations, which rose to 120 in 2018.
As the number increases, it also takes a toll on American lives. Between 1968 and 2021, 1.5 million people died from gun-related injuries, a number higher than soldiers killed in every US conflict since its independence in 1775. In 2020, 45000 people died from homicide or suicide by guns, an all-time highest. The number is also increasing drastically in the last decade. The number is 25% higher than in 2015 and 43% higher than in 2010. So, gun-related death is growing sharply in the USA.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the US is also at the top of the list of gun-related violence globally, with 79% of violence committed with a gun. CDC also says that 53 people fall victim to gun-related violence in the USA every day.
The public perception of gun ownership is also changing over the last decade. According to Gallop’s survey, 52% of American now believe in stricter gun laws, while 35% is happy with the current one, and 11% wants less strict gun laws. Even though the public pool for stricter gun laws is still topping the result, the number is facing a downward turn compared to the last decade. Previously, it was 62% which fell short to 52% by 2021. It means public perception of stricter gun laws is decreasing.
Another grave concern for the USA is mass-shooting. Mass shootings have become a recurring event in the USA with high frequency. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the USA has experienced around 345 mass shootings that killed 1024 victims and injured approximately 1828 people in the last two decades. The recent Texas shooting is the 8th deadliest, according to their report. Even though there is no single definition, commonly, mass shooting refers to incidents that involve four or more people. Based on this definition, Pew Research suggests that 513 people had died in 2020. However, the number of incidents is also increasing since 2016. The number was 20 in 2016, which rose to 31in 2019 and 40 by 2020.
The frequency of mass shootings is also becoming very much alarming. Even though the Texas incident of 24th May, garnered much media coverage, other incidents also took place around the same week. Only on Memorial Day alone, the US witnessed 12 mass shootings killing at least eight people and injuring 55 more. A week later, on 31st May, the Tulsa incident took place. On 2nd June, the Police also arrested a teen for allegedly planning a mass shooting.
Such shooting incidents are also violating child rights and making children the victim. As schools are public places with the least security and children are easy targets, mass shooters are often opening their barrels at the school. The Sandy Hook massacre or the latest Uvalde cases are bearing the testimony of this claim. The gun-related violence against children is also increasing. Research also suggests that firearm-related deaths increased by 13.5% between 2019 and 2020; it surged by 30% among children and adolescents.
Adverse Impacts of Gun Violence
Gun ownership has made crime easier to commit in the USA. Over the past two decades, racial crimes and supremacy have increased. This supremacy results in growing insecurity among the minorities such as Hispanic and Black populations. So, this insecurity is also leading them to own guns. According to a BBC report, the number of new gun owners increased by 3% between 2018 and 2021. And among them, 40% are Hispanic and Black population. Gun owning is mostly a Common tradition for white Americans. But now, it seems due to growing insecurity, other minorities are also arming themselves for self-defense. This availability of guns often leads civilians to make irrational decisions that result in violence. For instance, the Texas shooter was bullied at the school, and as soon as he turned 18 and got his first gun, he pulled the trigger in an elementary school. Besides, he is also not a white American. He is Hispanic. Possessing firearms among diverse ethnicities may also lead to retaliatory attacks and fear of insecurity. Therefore, it is also a threat to the social fabric of the US.
As the incidents increase every year, and the support for stricter laws is still more than 50%, the US must address its gun violence problem. The US should impose more stringent rules and regulations on owning and possessing firearms. To reduce tension, it must focus on curbing supremacy and insecurity among the ethnic groups. The US is the ‘Champion of Human Rights in the global arena. The current Biden administration is also centering its foreign policy on democracy and human rights. But it seems the administration is doing very little in the domestic aspects to curb violence. It is yet to make a very progressive decision regarding stricter laws. So, the US should focus on its domestic condition while promoting the very same policy in its foreign policy.