The Fourth of July weekend in the United States of America, saw shootings in nearly every state amounting to approximately 220 deaths according to the Gun Violence Archive. Out of these, at least 11 have been reported to be mass shootings – a prime example being the shooting in Highland Park, Illinois.
The website also reported that the country sees nearly 40,000 deaths caused due to the increasing wave of gun violence plaguing the country. For a country that can boast of being one of the richest in the world, it proves to be the odd one out amongst the developed economies, with 3.964 gun violence related deaths per 100,000 people according to Bloomberg. With the second highest figure exposing the huge gulf in numbers with Cyprus’s 0.628 and the 309 mass shootings carried out in the US in 2022 itself, the problem clearly lies with the USA.
What is it that makes the country different from others that come in the same category? The issue of gun ownership is rooted in the second amendment of their constitution, “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.” At this point, with more guns than people, and several states that allow easy access to firearms, these statistics should not come as a surprise.
All 50 states and Washington, D.C. allow some or the other form of concealed carrying of firearms in public. Out of these, only seven states require people to justify their need to carry such a firearm. The argument for stricter gun laws is that they will prevent gun deaths and reduce crime, while the rationale against them is that they will prohibit law-abiding citizens from defending themselves against armed criminals. The country, for a very long time, has been divided over this. 91 percent of Democrats believe that gun laws should be more restrictive, while this belief is shared by only 24 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Independent voters, according to BBC.
However, a study by the British Medical Journal shows that according to yearly variations in the rate of mass shootings, restricted states typically had lower rates of mass shootings than the majority of permissive states. After keeping in mind the key variables of the study, a 10-unit rise in the scale's definition of how permissive a state's gun laws are was linked to an 11.5 percent greater likelihood of mass shootings. . Apart from this, when comparisons are drawn between states, there is a clear increasing trend, implying that there is a connection between ownership and violence.
The simultaneous implementation of laws aimed at various gun limitations in some countries is related to a decrease in firearm fatalities, according to data from 130 research conducted in 10 different countries. Laws that restrict access to and the purchase of weapons, such as background checks and better storage, are also linked to decreased rates of killings involving intimate partners and accidental shooting fatalities of children.
The number of people killed by guns in America in 2013 was 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides, and 505 accidental discharge-related deaths. Only 13 deaths in Japan in the same year — a nation with one-third the population of the United States — were caused by firearms.
Accordingly, an American is around 300 times more likely than a Japanese person to die by gun homicide or accident. America has 150 times more gun owners than Japan. The restrictions on who can purchase a gun and what kinds of guns can be owned are also among the most lenient in the world in the US, which is the stark opposite of Japan.
According to a study by the New York Times, four of the mass murderers in their database bought their weapons from private sellers. One had already failed a background check prior to acquiring his firearm, which suggests that extensive background checks are a necessity with private sellers before allowing someone to own a gun. Apart from this, stealing is another means of obtaining firearms, which begs the need to encourage safe gun storage. 30 percent of the mass shootings in their database could have been avoided if a ban had been imposed on assault weapons. Instead, they have led to twice as many fatalities as compared to other shootings.
The power to be violent, whilst lying with the person, is only made possible by the gun. Following a major massacre in Britain in 1987, the nation enacted strong gun control regulations. As did Australia following a shooting in 1996. On the other hand, while the US has had multiple instances that scream the need to regulate control, they have consistently concluded that largely unrestricted gun ownership is worth the cost to society – and that is what sets America apart.
1. Fisher, M., & Keller, J. (2021, April 16). Why Does the U.S. Have So Many Mass Shootings? Research Is Clear: Guns. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/americas/mass-shootings-us-international.html
2. B. (2021, April 19). Gun Violence. Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/arms-control/gun-violence/
3. Masters, J. (2022, June 10). U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons. Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/us-gun-policy-global-comparisons#chapter-title-0-2