‘Thoughts and prayers’ trending once again: US Mass Shootings
As the first lines of this story were scribbled, aimed to remind the mass shooting on November 5 in First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, news reported about another rampage in Northern California where five people were killed. It is frightening how frequent and unsurprising the news of another mass shooting in the US have become. Not a long time has passed since the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas that took thelives of 26 people, and stricter gun control rules in the US once again made it onto the political agenda.
The worrying tendency, however, is that considering the countless shootings and victims in the recent and older past, it does not seem likely that a solution will be reached, and the discussion will be soon silenced by the daily Republican-Democrat rivalry and Trump͛s Twitter outbursts. SAD!
In 2017 alone around 350 people have been killed in US mass shootings(according to Gun Violence Archive, it is considered to be a mass shooting if four or more people are killed). What is more shocking – every year there are roughly 33,000 gun related deaths, two-thirds of which are suicides, and 70,000 people injured by gun. On a global scale, US by far has the most gun related homicides among the developed countries. The rates of gun homicide are 25 times higher than in other high-income states. If that is not horrific enough, almost half of the 650 million civilian owned guns worldwide are in a possession of an Americans. It is estimated that on average every 100 Americans have 89 guns. Most of the guns, almost two thirds, used in mass shootings are obtained legally.
One would immediately notice an obvious and dramatic problem. The shocking numbers are the consequence of the soft and rarely regulated gun laws. Gun possession by ordinary citizens is legally protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution. On federal level firearms are regulated by the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). It states that you have to be 18 years of age to purchase shotguns or rifles and ammunition. It is illegal to sell guns to fugitives, people deemed a danger to society and patients involuntarily committed to mental institutions, as well as to people with previous prison sentence longer than one year, and unlawful possession of illegal substances. Despite these rules, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), division administrating GCA, states that is legal for anyone to sell a gun without a Federal Firearms License (FFL) from their home, online, at a flea market or at a gun show as long as he or she is not conducting the sale as part of regular business activity. In such cases, there exists a high possibility that gun is sold without a background check.
It is no secret that Republicans, in order to stay loyal to their electorate, and sponsors from gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Gun Owners of America, are the ones blocking stricter gun control rule proposals. Throughout the 2016 election campaign gun rights lobbyists contributed almost $6 million to the Republican party, in comparison to $106,000 to the Democrats. More than half of the members from the House of the Representatives, 232 from 435, were to some extent sponsored by groups like NRA or Gun Owners of America. Only nine of them were Democrats. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, received the largest contribution – $171 977. Makes you wonder the real meaning and value behind their ͞thoughts and prayers͟tweets after the reoccurring shootings.
Gun supporters repeatedly argue that stricter gun rules would limit their chance to protect themselves. Who they should be protected from is still a debated question. After the recent mass shooting in Texas, where a citizen used his gun stop the shooter, Donald Trump victoriously shared his beliefs that there would have been more deaths if the citizen would not have carried gun with him. Nevertheless, if we look at the statistics, only in 3.1% cases armed citizens engage with the shooter. Additionally, 70% of the mass shootings take place at businesses or schools, where most often it is illegal and unlikely for someone to carry a gun.
Most probably under the current political leadership and influence of the NRA, there will not be any significant changes regarding the gun control in the US. Hopefully, the changes will be triggered by social activism and decrease of NRA powers in politics, and not news reports of the next ͚deadliest mass shooting in the US history͛.