Guns, Greed, and Rights: Questioning the Narrative of ‘Gun Rights’ in America

One basic question that is brought to light by the debate over gun regulation in the US is: who is accountable when gun ownership comes along with power?

One basic question that is brought to light by the debate over gun regulation in the US is: who is accountable when gun ownership comes along with power? The legalization of gun possession in the United States has brought mostly atrocity to its citizens. The United States government  is  under  an  immediate  and  obvious  duty  to safeguard its citizens from gun violence.  However,  the  United  States  has  not  taken  all  the  required  steps  to avoid gun violence  and  instead  has a  preference  for  ineffective  both  state  and federal gun control legislation. The gun laws mostly profited the gun business, which is valued at around $9 billion every year while gun violence is accountable to over 40,000 Americans and injures twice as many, while the yearly financial burden of gun violence is estimated to be $557 billion (Everytown Research & Policy, 2022).

The  US  Constitution’s  Second Amendment guarantees the privilege to possess and carry firearms. It was passed on December 15, 1791, along with the Bill of Rights that says: “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.” The law was then evaluated through the ratification of the following several federal laws, namely the Federal Firearms Act (FFA) of 1938, the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968, the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) of 1986, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 (then replaced by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System), and the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. The law then continued to be renewed as time passed by, after multiple dead bodies and protests—to come to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022.

After numerous amendments, the gun law has yet to achieve its goal of a safer America. On the contrary, the law’s passing resulted in 200+ Americans being shot and injured every day. Without a doubt, guns indicate an imminent threat to public health. Too many individuals pass away and far too many groups experience trauma that never fully heals, frequently in the manner in which public health expertise is meant to address. The fabrication of “gun rights” in the US is deliberately constructed and supported by the firearms industry, in addition to being  a  result  of  legal  interpretation.  While  the  gun  lobby  was  creating  a  narrative  of perpetual danger, the firearms industry began introducing advertisements for firearms created specifically as self-defense products. Rather than emphasizing security, such marketing strategies aim to encourage the purchase of firearms and the privatization of the gun industry. Furthermore, the  distortion  of  self-defense  and  exploitation  of  fear has had a disastrous impact on public safety, resulting in the loss of countless individuals at the expense of those encouraged by the notion that they must “shoot to live.”

Due to poor restrictions and a profit-driven mindset, the U.S. gun business contributes significantly to the rise in gun violence worldwide. The vast amount of weapons sold by the United States contributes to global instability and violence, which makes human rights breaches easier. While states may not outright forbid self-defense, they must ensure that the freedom of self-defense does not cross the right to life. Human rights advocates have grave concerns  about some attempts to expand self-defense legislation, particularly “stand your ground”  laws  that  do  not  limit  the  use  of  force  even  when  there are safer alternatives. Companies in the gun business, particularly American-based ones, have a responsibility to uphold human rights and ought to have thorough due diligence procedures in place. Despite being aware of how dangerous their products are, firearms-producing companies prefer to prioritize their profits before saving lives. Their profit has increased dramatically during the past 20 years along with the increase of gun violence rates.

According to a 2023 article that was published in JAMA and covered the years 2014 to 2022, there were 4,011 massacres in the US, with Illinois and the Southeast being the most common locations  (Barnard  et  al.,  2023).  During  the  COVID-19 pandemic, there was a dramatic increase  in  gun  violence  and  mass  shootings.  The  US  Centers  for  Disease  Control and Prevention reported that in 2020, the country’s rate of firearm-related homicides reached its highest level since 1994. The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report states that there was a roughly 35% rise in the total rate of homicides with firearms between 2019 and 2020 (Simon, 2022).

The science is certain: more firearms cannot mitigate crime. Similar to COVID, there is an outbreak of public health issues with guns, and the US is repeatedly failing to protect its citizens as a result. The gun business has succeeded in blocking reasonable legislation by spreading this misleading picture across American citizens and important voting populations. At the same time, it has been producing a steady stream of messages aimed at increasing American possession of firearms and corporate profits. The incentive of a massive litigation payment to ensure the safety of firearms is practically nonexistent, as the federal government protects against certain claims.

Ironically, the gun industry is protected by law in the United States of America, making them practically immune to law. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), calls to “prohibits civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive, or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others”. Never once has a gun manufacturer been put on trial for ignorance since the passage of PLCAA in 2005.

The leeway that the states have given to the firearms industries is ridiculous as it puts the human rights to live last in their priority. To ensure that all gun violence is averted and that weapons do not wind up falling into the wrong individuals, not only the state, but the gun business is also crucial. sensible sales methods can stop the influx of illicit armaments into cities, security systems can guarantee that firearms are out of the hands of thieves and kids, information  about  who  provides  illicit  guns  may  lead  to  focused reform initiatives, and judicial responsibility can stop or change bad actors. International human rights organizations have the authority to suggest ways to mitigate assault weaponry and its effects on human rights. They have already done so. Although these steps are significant in and of themselves because they force the American administration to address the challenges of the international community regarding human rights on international platforms, they are unable to directly alter American policy.

Furthermore, the present U.S. government is quite contemptuous of the United Nations and other international organizations, and it is probably not going to be easily swayed by outside pressure. Regulations that may lower gun violence are widely supported by the public, yet the federal government and states continuously fail to enact them. The present complicated of federal and state laws is inadequate to stop the epidemic of gun violence in the US, and change is occasionally beset by politically difficult political impediments. Sandy Hook was supposed to be a turning point, according to many. However, the National Rifle Association (NRA) backed almost two-thirds of the nearly 600 state gun legislation that were passed in the six years that occurred following Sandy Hook and relaxed regulations on the possession and use of firearms. Undoubtedly, human rights measures are not the sole strategy to fix the issue of gun violence in America, but they do turn the tables. From a public health standpoint, the field is tackling issues by creating community intervention plans, educating people, and preventing suicide. It may be possible to protect American human rights and provide a more thorough and efficient defense against gun violence by fusing public health strategies alongside human rights activism.

Syakilla Putri Aulia Haryanto
Syakilla Putri Aulia Haryanto
Syakilla Putri Aulia Haryanto is an undergraduate student from University of Gadjah Mada (UGM) studying International Relations. Particularly interested in US policy, human rights, and contemporary international relations that involve new media, she is open to feedback, criticism, and evaluations to further help her in her future research.