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America’s gun epidemic: No end in sight to mass shootings in US

By Marzieh Hashemi

Half Moon Bay, a small coastal city on the California coast, is where the 39th mass shooting took place in the United States this year. That makes it 39 mass shootings in less than a month, killing over 60 people.

By the time this article is published, it’s likely there would have been another shooting and more deaths. The vicious cycle of violence continues unabated. 

Given the alarming frequency of mass shootings and the sheer indifference of authorities to these preventable tragedies, the US may well be staring at the deadliest year in its recent history.

The year 2023 announced its arrival with six mass shootings on January 1 across the US. The latest shooting was reported in California’s Monterey Park on Sunday, claiming 11 precious lives.  

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks shootings in the US, a total of 647 mass shootings were recorded in 2022, killing 44,287 people.

The figure for 2022 was slightly less than the year before when 692 mass shootings resulted in the death of 45,010 people across the country.

Interestingly, the US is the only country with more civilian guns than the population – 120 guns for every one hundred Americans – as per the Small Arms Survey (SAS), a Swiss research project.  

In a country of 331.9 million people, there are 393 million firearms. About 45 percent of American households have guns and obviously, many of these households have more than one gun.

Guns and gun culture in the country seem to be as American as apple pie, as attested by the never-ending roll of mass shootings, from supermarkets to places of worship to residential localities.

Firearms injury is the leading cause of death for people under the age of 24 in the US. In just one year, from 2019 to 2020, the firearms industry experienced its highest growth, according to multiple reports.

It goes without saying that Americans love their guns. Gun sales in the US more than doubled in the ten years between 2010 and 2020. Americans also lead the world with mass killings.

According to a study by the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, mass shootings in the US account for 73 percent of all incidents and 62 percent of all fatalities in developed countries, more likely involving “foreign-born perpetrators, ideological motives, fame-seeking motives, schools, open spaces, and handguns”.

Like his predecessors when they were in office, US President Joe Biden has been urging Congress to ban assault weapons, along with other restrictions, especially after the carnage in California.

After certain mass shootings, there usually is some rumbling back and forth about gun control measures and counter-rumbling about the right to bear arms. At the end of the day, very little, if anything, is done.

According to a JAMA Network Open Study, since 1990, more than one million people have been killed due to firearms in the US. However, the infatuation with guns in this country is unlikely to change.

Though a growing number of Americans want tougher restrictions on firearms, it doesn’t appear to be happening. The reason is clear - they are up against a very powerful and lucrative firearms industry, which is worth a whopping $70 billion.

In a neoliberal capitalist country, profits overrule people’s interests, and the staggering amount of money means influential lobbying groups push through the gun industry agenda in Washington.

In the 2022 midterm elections alone, gun manufacturers spent $9.55 million to sway politicians toward their way of thinking. That is besides millions of dollars splurged to persuade politicians.

Pro-gun lobbies and their supporters usually cite the second amendment of the US Constitution as the reason for their resistance to arms control. However, it is no secret that profit is a main motivation than adherence to the country’s Constitution.  

Pro-gun advocates give an array of reasons why they adhere to the right to bear arms so adamantly, despite the alarming rise in violence in society. 

The reasons range from keeping the “old west” culture of independence that colonized the country alive to those who say they fear what they call the “far-reaching hand” of Washington.

At a Senate judiciary committee meeting recently, Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the most powerful gun lobbying entity in the country, was asked if he agreed with people requiring firearms to protect themselves from the government.

“Senator, I think without any doubt, if you look at why our Founding Fathers put it there, they had lived under the tyranny of King George and they wanted to make sure that these free people in this new country would never be subjugated again and have to live under tyranny," he responded.

This sums up how a growing number of people feel about why they need to be armed in the US.

However, 6 out of 10 gun owners say they keep guns for self-protection as they do not feel safe in their homes or outside. This is deeply problematic for any society when people lack a sense of security and feel the need for self-protection through assault arms.

Also, despite the increasing number of mass shootings in the country, the consensus to rid the country of even automatic weapons is eluding. There is a great deal of distrust between these two groups - those who say that in this era civilians don’t need to be armed and those who say civilians must be armed.

There is also growing distrust between Americans and their government, which many feel represents and advances the interests of powerful and influential groups, instead of ordinary and vulnerable people.

And the divide between Americans just continues to grow. While little is done by the ruling elite to contain the gun violence, more and more Americans are feeling less secure, fearing they or their loved ones can be shot while doing the most mundane day-to-day tasks.

This fear is not unwarranted, as people have been shot while in church, at the grocery store, at a concert, and just about anywhere. Parents fear for the safety of their children as schools have become a major target of mass shooters.

What does it say about a society that fails to protect even its most vulnerable and weak? 

Ironically, the country that has been primarily responsible for death and destruction in other countries is now imploding from within. Or perhaps, it is just a natural symptom of the disease, as violence breeds violence.

Marzieh Hashemi is a US-born, Iran-based senior journalist, political commentator and documentary filmmaker.

(The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV)

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