Gun culture US/Opinion
According to Forbes Magazine, the retail gun trade in the US was worth $28 billion (Dh1.02 trillion) in 2021. Image Credit: Gulf News

It’s a six-minute drive, Google Maps says, between Robb Elementary School on Old Carrizo road in Uvalde up to Joe’s Gun Shop on East Main Street.

There are seven other gun stores in Uvalde too — places like Exile Firearms, South Texas Armament; Lone Star Outdoor, EZ Pawn, Nitex Guns — but my two favourites, based on their names alone, are Liquornguns and Bottle N Bag. Sure, buy a handgun, some ammo and get drunk as skunk when you’re at it.

Welcome to gun culture in Uvalde, a small Texas community that made international headlines when an 18-year-old gunman, acting alone, killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers on 24 May.

Since then, every day on average, 321 people have been shot. Out of those, between 106 and 111 die each day, depending on what source you use.

According to — Kathy Giffords is a former US Congresswoman who was shot, left with life-changing injuries and has dedicated the rest of her life and energy to fighting for gun control — among those killed in a single day were a 31-year-old father in Port Allen, Louisiana; a 43-year-old in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who was known as a stylish dresser with a great sense of humour; an 11-year-old in Columbia, Missouri, who loved to dance and play with her cousins; and a 17-year-old in Columbus, Ohio, who was a gifted boxer. And there were 107 others who died the same too. That day. Every day.

Across America, there are some 63,000 gun stores. And yes, business is brisk. According to Forbes Magazine, the retail gun trade in the US was worth $28 billion (Dh1.02 trillion) in 2021.

That’s a lot of guns. New guns, to add to the many millions already in people’s homes and businesses.

Out there, in America, there’s close to half a billion guns. For every 100 Americans, there are nearly 121 guns. Yes, that’s by far the highest rate of gun ownership in the world — by a long-shot. Yemen is second, with 58 guns per 100 people — and there’s a civil war going on there.

According to Giffords, 22 per cent of gun owners DON’T get a background check.

If you want to buy a gun, then a gun show is a good place to start. There are roughly 4,000 of them across the US each year. Often held at public venues like fairgrounds or civic centres, gun shows operate as temporary, largely unregulated markets for the transfer of firearms. Giffords estimates that firearm purchases from gun shows account for 4 to 9 per cent of annual firearm sales, while 3 per of gun owners report acquiring their most recent firearm from a gun show.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm investigations at gun shows have resulted in arrests for many serious offences, including straw purchases, sales of firearms to people convicted of felonies, and possession of prohibited firearms like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns.

There is little regulation in states like Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and Texas than at gun shows in California, which regulates gun shows and requires background checks for all firearm transfers there

Because most gun shows are unregulated, they have become an attractive source of weapons for prohibited people looking to circumvent background checks and other gun safety laws.

As things stand now — and for the foreseeable future — effective gun control is out of reach in America, simply because its gun laws are a highly complex mixture of federal and state laws, with municipalities even having a say on how the sale of guns is licensed in their turf. You might expect there to be outrage at poor gun control laws. There is. But according to pollsters Gallup, support for stricter gun laws fell between 2014 and 2020.

Only 52 per of Americans surveyed said they wanted stricter gun laws while 35 per said they should remain the same — and 11 per cent said laws should be “made less strict”.

It’s highly partisan too, with more than 90 per cent of Democrats wanting them limited, and 24 per cent of Republicans wanting the same thing.

The right to bear arms is enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution and is protected as sacrosanct by gun enthusiasts. It’s not impossible to change clauses of the Constitution, but not when it comes to gun culture in the US. There isn’t enough widespread support to repeal that — no matter how many people die each day in America.

When that clause was written, it was scribed on parchment with a quill pen and referred to the right to keep muskets at home for local militias at a time when there were 13 former colonies of America coming together in a time of revolution against British rule enforced by Red Coats.

A proficient Red Coat soldier could fire and reload his musket twice with lead and gunpowder in one minute. You can fire off 15 high-powered bullets in less than 10 seconds now with the aid of a laser target and protected by over-the-counter Kevlar.

Somehow, to everyone else outside of the US, the logic doesn’t make sense.

Here’s one more statistic you might like to consider: On that six-minute drive in Uvalde from Joe’s Gun Shop on East Main Street down to Robb Elementary School, you pass two funeral homes, Rushing Estes Knowles Mortuary and Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home

Eight gun shops. Two funeral homes. One school and 21 shooting victims.