OPN US gun laws
There are no federal laws banning semiautomatic assault weapons in the US Image Credit: Gulf News

Last week, a Florida jury sentenced life without parole to a former student for committing the deadliest US high school massacre in 2018. A few hours after that verdict, another mass shooting occurred in Raleigh, North Carolina, killing five people, including a police officer.

The suspect is only a 15-year-old boy. Among developed countries, the US is an outlier when it comes to gun violence. Still, two and half months to go, already more than 34,000 people have died in shooting this year in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that nearly 49,000 were killed in the US by guns in 2021.

Gun deaths have risen in the US, particularly in the last two years. 15,000 more Americans died in gun violence in 2021 compared to a decade earlier, in 2012. Though mass shootings get more media attention, the majority of gun deaths, nearly 54 per cent, are suicides.

According to a survey by Gallup, only 52 per cent of Americans are interested in making gun-owning laws stricter. The US has also not seen a mass movement against guns either

It is estimated that there are around 400 million guns in the US, out of which 393 million are in the hands of civilians. In 2020 alone, Americans bought 40 million guns. At the beginning of this century, annual gun purchase in the US was less than 10 million, so there is almost four times more gun purchase in the US now than it used to be twenty years ago.

There are more than 120 guns per 100 residents in the US, and no other country’s population carries that many guns. The second country on this list is Yemen, and despite a long-running civil war, per every 100 Yemeni residents, there are nearly 52 guns.

US gun violence
2021 US gun-related homicides and suicides hit highest rate since 1990s Image Credit: Gulf News

As per the National Firearms Survey in 2021, 32 per cent of Americans say that they personally own a gun. If you calculate gun-owning households, Gallup estimates that 44 per cent of American households have guns. The US population is less than 5 per cent of the global population, but they have about 40 per cent of all civilian firearms in the world.

After gaining victory in the war of independence, the founding fathers celebrated personal freedom and liberty and enshrined Americans’ right to firearms in the Second Amendment. The US constitution adopted this Second Amendment in 1789 and nine other amendments, known as the Bill of Rights.

It prevents the government from infringing upon individual rights to bear arms. The constitutionally guaranteed rights given in the 18th century are primarily responsible for the dangerous gun culture in the US that we witness today.

While the Second Amendment limits the Federal Government’s power to regulate guns, the Tenth Amendment only gives states the power to make gun rules. Thus, there is a big difference between states, who and when one can carry a gun in public, who can buy the guns, and what type of guns.

The US Congress passed a Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in June this year, including a gun safety package. This Act has several limitations but was a welcome step as it was the first major federal gun safety law since 1994.

US gun culture
The debate over US gun laws has raged for decades, often reigniting after high-profile mass shootings Image Credit: Gulf News

However, while Congress was negotiating this federal gun safety law, the Supreme Court gave a ruling that further strengthened the Second Amendment for carrying concealed firearms. Taking the cue from the Supreme Court, judges in lower courts in New York, Texas, and Delaware have already removed other gun regulations imposed by the respective states.

Even before the Supreme Court’s decision, states like Texas and Georgia, in recent months, have removed any restrictions on carrying firearms without any license or permit. The National Rifle Association, though it has filed for bankruptcy, remains the most powerful gun lobby in the country.

Tighter gun control laws

Despite the increasing number of deadlier mass shootings and public outrage after that, public support for stricter gun laws has somewhat declined compared to a decade ago. American voters are more divided than before, and that trend also reflects on the issue of tighter gun control laws.

According to a survey by Gallup, only 52 per cent of Americans are interested in making gun-owning laws stricter. The US has also not seen a mass movement against guns either.

There is no doubt that the US is witnessing more gun violence than any developed country in the world because its gun laws are almost non-existent. Politics has gained importance over life, and gun lobbies are exploiting the partisan nature of the issue.

Politicians are very liberal with their compassionate statements and gestures after a mass shooting but lack the political will to give priority to gun control legislation. Even US President Joe Biden calls for lawmakers to have a backbone and the courage to address gun violence in the country.

There is a lot the politicians can do if the Conservative Supreme Court is still hell-bent on preserving a law made in the 18th century environment to be followed in the 21st century. US politicians need to unite to make strict federal and state laws regarding gun ownership, ban semi-automatic rifles completely, and buy back guns from the streets as much as possible.

No one else but the country’s lawmakers need to be blamed for the massive loss of life due to gun violence in the US. For American politicians, saving American lives should be the topmost priority.