Gun Violence in the US: Is the US becoming Taliban-like?
Date: April 13th, 2023, Time: 09:50 PM, Place: Kansas City, USA
84-year-old Andrew Lester heard knocking as he was about to sleep. The one at the door was 16 years old Ralph Yarl. Ralph was told to pick up his younger siblings by his mother.
However, Ralph made a blunder – not that he had weapons or illegal substances on him. Only that he was at the wrong address in America – confused between 115th Street and 115th Terrace. He was asked to go to 115th Terrace, but reached 115th Street. And what happened next has shocked each and every American to the core.
The 84-year-old was surprisingly alarmed by the presence of someone at the door and fired through the locked glass door without checking.
The 16-year-old was hit in the head and hand with a .32 calibre hand gun. You must be thinking – since the person was an old man, he must be out of his mind – but there is more to it as this is not new in America.
Despite wounded in head, Ralph has survived and discharged from hospital after four-day observation. On the other hand, Andrew Lester told police that he was “scared to death” by Yarl’s size and hence shot.
American logic – what this old uncle says makes sense – and was released.
But, this led to outrage and police was put to question. Finally, in 17th April, officials charged the gunman with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Lester surrendered, but pleaded not guilty in court the next day.
You may think this story defies common sense – but firing guns over small issues is a reality in America. One American may kill teenage boy and still legally be shown right.
Let’s deep dive in the US’ gun violence problem and how it is relevant to India!
Two days after the Kansas incident, a 65-year-old fired at a vehicle in Washington county, because the car was on his driveway.
The driver realized taking the wrong turn and was on the way out, but the man fired and 20-year-old passenger Kaylin Gillis died. On the same day, firing too place again in Dadeville Alabama which killed 4 youngsters, and left 28 injured. And, recently, two Texas cheerleaders were shot at after getting into the wrong car – one girl is critically injured.
These were incidents of the past few days. This year thousands of such cases emerged. For example, a 6-year-old fired at the teacher in January. The mother of the student is arrested. If I number all these incidents, the article will be incredibly lengthy.
In short, gun violence has rapidly increased in past few years, and victims are children and teenagers. More youngsters die of gun violence than road accidents. Is America becoming Taliban-like where guns are fired over small problems?
America makes reports on conditions around the world, so we thought why not do the same…!
In 2022 – total number of gun deaths excluding suicides is estimated more than 20,000. In comparison to the previous year, in 3 months, this year, over 5000 died of gun violence – meaning 50 gun deaths every day.
Mass Shooting – Three or more killing is mass shooting as per the US law, while Gun Violence Archive (GVA), which tracks all such horrific incidents, defines four or more killing in a single incident as mass shooting.
If 4 or more is counted, then 163 mass shootings happened in 2023 – this is more than the number of days passed this year. And, this is the same America that teaches peace, stability, democracy to the world.
In 2022, 647 mass shootings were reported – marginally less than 690 in 2021. But this is twofold rise from 2015. It has increased at an alarming rate.
The way this year is moving forward, a new record in mass shootings will be created, if nothing is done about it. Looking merely at numbers won’t help much, we must look at the reasons, stories and concerns behind these numbers. A total of 400+ teenagers died of gun violence till March 27, 2023. Imagine the pain of those many families to comprehend the seriousness of this problem!
Indians also became victim of this gun violence – recently, student Saiesh Veera was shot dead at a gas station in Ohio. Often these gun crimes go unsolved.
Government should raise concern of safety of Indian nationals. People go abroad for higher education or job – Will they be shot at as gun violence is rising?
There are 6 reasons for increasing gun violence in America –
- Second Amendment – America received gun culture in their constitution as a right. 2nd amendment was introduced in 1791 allowing US citizens right to bear arms, and also letting people to form militia to rise against possible tyranny in future. These rights were given in a different period for a reason, but over 200 years later, Americans cannot let go of this special right, as if that will be all for democracy. People think this is basic freedom – right to self-defence – and they don’t care how changed America is now, they won’t give up on this right.
- Gun Laws regulated by States – Gun laws are regulated by states as US is a federal country. So state rules are different, and central govt. cannot bring about a universal regulation. So, even if Joe Biden wants to regulate, he cannot do much about it. In only 7 of 50 US states, one cannot carry open gun, it’s completely prohibited. And in only 8 states, registration of fire arms is mandatory. Here, in India, we have to provide PAN, Aadhaar to get a SIM card, and in the US you can purchase guns with no question. In 28 states, ‘stand your ground’ law is activated where it is permitted to use guns as long as it can be proved for defence of body, family, property. Meaning, the loophole can be exploited.
- Easy Availability – Third reason is easy availability. When there are less regulations and govt. is not interfering, then business must be booming. Same is the case in America – as regulation is very little, the business of guns is big in America. In many states, one can show a govt. ID and buy guns – no background checking, no license or training – anyone can buy a gun.
- National Rifle Association – This association influences politics and policy systematically (for their own benefits). NRA is a longest standing civil rights organization – campaigning against gun control. Their spokespersons give stupid logic on news channels after incidents of mass shootings. After so many recent shootings and deaths, they held a convention at Indianapolis in Indiana where former Prez Donald Trump and VP Mike Pence attended. Trump also promised protection of the 2nd amendment as a right if he is re-elected. He also gave Trump style solution to increasing gun violence in school. Trump called for arming teachers at the convention. America was selling weapons to the world and now its teachers too? Trump repeated what NRA has been saying for years – if people are afraid of shooting, then everyone should keep guns to feel safe. And this would increase gun business in the name of protection – guns to everywhere – shopping, jogging etc. This may sound weird to us, but many Republican state governments in America, even today, are accepting of this logic, and gun laws are tried to control more. In 2021, Texas state made a law which allows citizens to carry handguns without a license or training. Earlier trained shooters bought guns, but now, anyone can buy handguns for protection, and for business of gun manufacturers to increase further.
- Business of Fear – The business of fear and protection was of $28 billion in 2018. Firearms sold in 2022 was 1.6 crores – 120 guns per 100 people in America, according to official statistics. The country placed second in terms of this is Yemen, where civil war is ongoing – 52 guns per 100 people. This is the reality of America – too many guns for people to shoot with.
AR-15 – AR 15 is the biggest worry in the country. This semi-automatic rifle was introduced in the 1950s for military purposes. This rifle has become an enemy of Americans now, as it is mostly used in deadly mass shootings.
Here is an underlying hypocrisy – NRA and pro-gun lobby call for arming for self-protection, then why is the demand for military style weapon high? Fear has grown so much that handguns – pistol, revolver won’t work – now only AR 15 rifle can save people while protecting themselves. (slow claps)
What will you sell to its citizens next America? Bazooka and tanks for people? 1 in 20 Americans has a AR 15 semi-automatic rifle as per report – meaning a total of 16 million AR 15 owners in the country. Military grade weapon with so many Americans – land of the free and home of the brave should be changed to home of the scared.
In the USA, when it comes to gun control, logic and common sense are done away with. A country that deems itself champion of human rights, democracy, and where polls show more than half of its population is in favour of stricter gun laws, there is no political will against gun culture in it.
There should be background check, controls and bans on rifles at least considering mass shootings in which victims are children. In a $20 trillion economy, if $28 billion arms market is hit, then what does it matter – how is this gun lobby so powerful?
Although America is in a tricky situation, but reforms can still happen if there is a strong political will. And this isn’t impossible to be done – Canada, Australia and New Zealand too have changed laws. After 2020 Nova Scotia attacks, Canada banned AR 15 and 1500 other weapons in 2 weeks.
Besides, Australia and New Zealand began gun control in 1996 and 2019 after mass attacks – launched buy back schemes and introduced restrictions over heavy weaponry.
So, if these countries can do this for their child safety, then why can’t America do for itself?
Also, we, on Mahabahu, strongly criticise US on gun culture, and if you are a super power, then you must be responsible and ready for criticism. America has to answer the children and to the world it preaches lessons of democracy.
[Images from different sources]
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