The Pundit: America’s Gun Culture and its Ramifications
The Second Amendment and resulting debate over its interpretation and application has been a contentious topic for centuries among American citizens and political leaders alike. On the one hand, the right to bear arms against oppression and unlawfulness exemplifies a foundational right the Framers of the Constitution emphasized as being crucial to liberty and justice. On the other hand, today many believe gun culture in America no longer represents that important value and is now predicated on simply displaying power and even inspiring fear and hate.
According to the BBC, the United States not only retains and circulates the world’s most guns overall, but with over 390 million guns, is in fact at the high end of countries in firearm ownership per capita. As for gun-related deaths, in the last few years gun violence and mass shootings have risen immensely, with total deaths involving guns reaching 38,355 in 2019 alone. As for mass shootings, between 2000 and 2018, active- and mass-shooter incidents have peaked at about 277 total accounts, as per FBI information. Additionally, some of the worst mass shootings to have occurred globally happened in the United States. For example, the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas (2017), The First Baptist Church Shooting in Texas (2017) and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida (2018) all occurred in America and reflect a disturbing rise in mass shootings.
Though many believe that the pandemic somewhat halted gun violence, data obtained by the Gun Violence Archive reveals that this was unfortunately not the case. In 2020, over 20,000 people in the United States fell victim to incidents of gun violence despite COVID-19. Evidently, this exemplifies the heightened rate of gun deaths and gun violence in the 21st Century United States.
Some claim that the combination of intense conditions of unemployment, poverty, homelessness and economic depletion have caused this peak in gun violence nationwide. While the heightened tension as a result of this pandemic is likely a prominent cause of increased gun violence, I believe the emphasis on gun culture is equally to blame. Gun culture in America is often predicated on the concept of owning firearms for personal gain, pleasure or self-defense. Unfortunately, these fundamental reasons for owning firearms have seemingly been forgotten.
Instead of firearms’ being utilized for self-defense or leisure activities, they are often used to promote power and incite fear, leading to an increase in mass shootings and gun violence all around the country. As such, I believe it is important to spread awareness regarding the gun culture in America and advocate for stricter gun laws both in receiving a license for a gun as well as in purchasing one. There must be stricter laws and more thorough background checks for individuals who wish to obtain a license to carry or possess a firearm. Stringent background checks allow for fewer firearms to be circulated to citizens who may threaten the greater public and who may utilize weapons to inspire fear or commit violence. Stricter gun laws can make our society safer, as they will limit gun access to people who are unfit to carry or possess firearms.
Contrary to popular belief, instituting appropriate gun control measures does not negate the right of self-defense as outlined by the Framers. Establishing stricter gun laws does not mean slowly diminishing the rights of individuals to bear arms for self-defense purposes. Rather, these laws can decrease the number of gun violence attacks nationally as well as reform what has become a dangerous gun culture in the United States. If states worked together to create stricter laws that still upheld the intent of the Framers when they wrote the Second Amendment, the United States would not only be safer and engender a healthier gun culture, but would also be able to reduce the number of tragic gun attacks that have plagued our nation for far too long.
Photo Caption: The 2018 March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.
Photo Credit: Phil Roeder via Wikimedia Commons