Bullet After Bullet

Diving into America's Firearm Epidemic

America is ranked #1 in the world for most gun violence per year.

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America is ranked #1 in the world for most gun violence per year.

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“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.”

A sentence etched into paper 232 years ago, whose effect is massively prevalent within today’s commonality. Almost anyone you ask has their own opinion on the topic, even without having the necessary factual information to back them up. But is the right to bear arms moral within and relevant to today’s society?

Setting the Scene

Gun violence is occurring at a record rate in the 21st century. Motivations vary from one situation to another, but it is simple to see: though guns are not the only dilemma, they are (alarmingly) the largest common denominator.

Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Las Vegas in 2017. Parkland in 2018. El Paso & Dayton in 2019. And the list only expands from there. As of today, 40,131 incidents of gun violence have occurred in 2019 in the United States alone.

“Individuals can lawfully carry concealed firearms in public in every state in the USA and can lawfully openly carry firearms in public in most states,” according to Human Rights organization, Amnesty International. “However, there is no nationwide uniformity in laws governing the carrying of firearms in public, and in some states there are no laws at all: 12 states allow individuals to carry concealed weapons in public without any license or permit and 30 states allow the open carrying of a handgun in public without any license or permit.”

Image result for gun violence chart

Credit to worldpopulationreview.com

People don’t demand to be shot. People don’t go out of their way to get in front of a bullet. Victims of this type of violence, ranging from intentional targets to ones who are at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

These victims should serve as a blatant example of why we need change. Instead, they are merely a statistic that our government won’t give heed to; Showing us that these victims are forgettable and fake. 

But the concept of private property is ingrained within our democracy. The right to self-defense with firearms is ingrained within our democracy. It is this undying loyalty, that has become a crutch and turns a blind eye to the facts. Bad people exist everywhere, no matter how patriotic of a country.

Ineffective Action of Today

America does not have a monopoly on sexism, racism, mental illness, or bigotry of any magnitude. But why does it have the largest rates of gun violence?

According to a study conducted by the Small Arms Survey in 2017, the civilian-to-gun ratio was 120.5 to 100. This means that there were more firearms in the country than citizens that populated it. For comparison: the second-highest-ranked country, Yemen (a country torn by a years-long and devastating civil war), had a ratio of 52.8 to 100 people.

Authority

That’s not to say that people don’t realize the issue. In fact, many gun owners themselves see the problem with the current system.

“According to Pew Research Center surveys, most people in the U.S. support universal background checks, a federal database to track gun sales, bans on assault-style weapons, and bans on high-capacity magazines,” says German Lopez, Vox reporter. “Some surveys have also found strong support for requiring a license to buy and own a gun, another proposal with solid research behind it.

Government officials also use the issue as a part of their campaign for election, promising change. But that’s where the difference between ideas and actions emerge.

People in authority can claim that we need to, and even attempt to change gun control. That does not ensure that we will see a transformation. Politicians are not being asked to specify the steps they will take when they announce their intents. Even with the exceptions, bill after bill has failed at the Senate (some weaker ones not even making it past the House of Representatives.) No one, even in respective parties, can come to a consensus on what the restrictions should be, if any.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QjZY3WiO9s
ABC News

Blame Game

Many of those in power use their platform to make their views widespread; even if those ideations are not backed up by an iota of factual evidence. An example would be our President, who blames gun violence mainly on entities such as media and mental health.

“We’re looking at the whole gun situation,” President Trump said when asked about the current situation with guns. “I do want people to remember the words ‘mental illness.’ These people are mentally ill. . . . I think we have to start building institutions again because, you know, if you look at the ’60s and ’70s, so many of these institutions were closed. A lot of our conversation has to do with the fact that we have to open up institutions; we can’t let these people be on the streets.”

This brand of rhetoric not only blames everything upon one viability but also stigmatizes mental illness as a whole. As a society, we are becoming more understanding and educated about illnesses like these. But ideas like these are what hold us back; associating mental illness with domestic terrorism.

Trump has also insisted that “gruesome and grisly video games” were the cause of shootings to the likes of Dayton and El Paso. “It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence.”

Who’s to say that kids aren’t getting it from other shootings? Playing copycat after they read their daily Twitter feed? After Columbine, many people who committed school shootings referenced the previous shooting as inspiration.

There has been no study that has directly linked violence and video games, other than ones that have Trump’s own interests in mind. But if it’s the media consumed, that drives one to commit dangerous crimes; then surely no influence in the media is more powerful than that of that wielded by the president himself?

Tunnel Vision

The shock that follows news of another act of brutality and the number of shootings that happen, combine together to result in a widespread numbness that is absolutely unbearable. Before we have properly mourned the deaths of innocent people, another two massacres have taken place.

Another effect of the repetitive firearm crimes is a surge in an obsessive focus on the dangers of military-grade rifles. Even though these make up less than 5% of all gun murders in 2014, according to FBI data. It is not only these guns, but smaller “everyday” use guns that give room to this simple probability: when you have more guns, you have more shootings. With the large array of choices and easy access to them, the amount of violence that is carried through with a gun in hand is not unexpected.

Credit to Mother Jones

Right and Wrong?

“Much of America’s day-to-day gun violence is concentrated in America’s poorest, most racially segregated neighborhoods – places with high rates of unemployment, struggling school systems, and high levels of mistrust between police officers and community members,” says Lois Beckett, gun violence activist, and reporter. “If you want to understand why gun rights advocates might not support new laws, or why the status quo might seem acceptable to some Americans, this is an essential bigger picture to grasp. There are millions of gun-owning Americans who use their guns safely, whose friends use their guns safely, whose children never access a gun when they are not supposed to.”

But is supporting your own right to have guns by referencing the fact that others have guns, make it ok? Has fighting fire with fire ever worked?

Social media raises a big red flag when people try to “make a difference.” Jumping onto hashtag trains, and simply reposting “awareness posts” on your story, does not do anything but spread the news. But this can easily go downhill: People can play on play on users’ want to spread awareness to gain followers or align their own agenda in other ways. No fact-checking is occurring during the simple three clicks it takes to post on a 24-hour story.

Playing God

Guns are not inherently bad or good. It is the freedom and power they give people that makes them a public menace. People become targets of the trigger side of the gun, and some people get bashed for expressing their Second Amendment rights even when practicing safe storage. Guns allow for mistakes. Guns allow for misunderstanding. In a world where “shoot first ask later” is the norm, we’re just reinforcing the vindication a gun can provide. There is no way that one can go about pointing fingers at everyone you see because no one is completely guilty other than the perpetrators.

Gun violence is a contemporary global human rights issue. Gun-related violence threatens our most fundamental human right, the right to life.”

— Amnesty International

Can we Fix this?

To fix this “epidemic” so to speak, we have to go to its roots. Why was the amendment that governs this right created in the first place?

In simple terms, the amendment was put into place as a cautionary action against threats alike to the British. The newly created country wanted to have a backup plan and be prepared. They did not intend for it to be a freebee to ensue violence. Violence upon innocents that reside within the same homeland.

Some argue that the right doesn’t even present itself in the Bill of Rights. Former Supreme Court Justice Stevens said: “The Amendment’s text does justify a different limitation: the ‘right to keep and bear arms’ protects only a right to possess and use firearms in connection with service in a state-organized militia. Had the Framers wished to expand the meaning of the phrase ‘bear arms’ to encompass civilian possession and use, they could have done so by the addition of phrases such as ‘for the defense of themselves.’” And only recently has this issue become so mainstream.

Even if the intended wording means individual possession, the amount of technology presented in today’s array of gun choices means that the word “arms” has been redefined. If it was put in place to keep the government in check and make sure that there was no overwhelm of power, other parts of the constitution ensure that the equal push and pull of politicians and people are present.

Background Checks

It is a fact that guns are directly related to gun violence. But we have to think beyond that. Evidence gathered by Harvard’s School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center shows that with controlling multiple variables, areas with a denser gun population had a higher gun violence rate. That includes homicide, suicide, domestic violence, police violence and, of course, mass shootings.

Either way, the main solution that is presented as a middle ground between supporters and those opposed to guns, is stricter background checks. Currently, background checks are not an absolute requirement. There are many loopholes that are worsened with weak enforcement. And even though the term “background checks” has been thrown around, a singular plausible plan of action has not been approved or even discussed.

Illegalization

So the next logical step would be making it illegal, right? Many countries such as Australia have had evident success in prohibition programs. In 1996, a man armed with a semiautomatic rifle went to Port Arthur and killed 35 people. injuring 23+. It was and has been the worst mass shooting in Australian history.

As a refute, lawmakers wrote laws that banned certain types of firearms and confiscated 650K+ firearms through a government-funded buyback program. Firearms that were available were registered and required permits for use. The ideas implemented immediate action. And it only took one tragedy. The result was an almost instant drop in the homicide rate by 42%.

Credit to Gun Violence Archive

But on the flip side, creating a complete ban would- not only take a large sum of time to fully implement but will potentially cause more gun violence to occur as a way of “rebelling.” This scenario has played out before; during the prohibition era. When alcoholic beverages became illegal, the amount of crime related to alcohol skyrocketed. Taking away commodities that citizens believe are their birthright, has never worked out well in the United States.

No Clear Solution

All of these speculations become possible only under the precedent that laws will pass in the first place. Just because people want their morality to align with their governing laws, doesn’t mean it will happen. Just because laws are passed, doesn’t mean that gun violence will stop for sure. We don’t have any concrete enough ideas that will for sure stop gun violence, especially in our delicate situation. Nothing is guaranteed. We do not have enough facts or agreement among people to have significant change at the rate we need it.

At the end of the day, lives are being taken and we are doing nothing to help.


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