Analysis Of Sansad TV Discussion: ”America’s Gun Culture”
GS 2: Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India’s Interests
- Recently, an attacker opened fire on people at the 36th Street subway station in Brooklyn, New York.
- The US Constitution gives all its citizens the right to own a gun. Guns are as easy to find in stores in America as you get fruits and vegetables in stores in India.
- The result of this is that in the last 50 years, more than 1.4 million people have died due to gun violence.
- Today, in America on average 100 people die every day because of its Gun Culture.
- The gun culture in America dates back to the time when the British government was there.
- In 1791, the Second Amendment to the US Constitution came into force and under this, American citizens were given the right to bear arms.
- The law has not changed even after more than 200 years.
Deadlier attacks in the US
- The US does not have a single definition for “mass shootings” but the FBI has tracked “active shooter incidents” for more than a decade. Such an incident is defined as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area”.
- The Las Vegas attack in 2017 remains the worst mass shooting in recent US history – 56 people were killed and nearly 500 others were wounded.
- According to the FBI, there were 345 “active shooter incidents” in the United States between 2000-2020, resulting in more than 1,024 deaths and 1,828 injuries.
Two Biggest Problems of American Society due to Gun Culture
- There were 19,384 gun-related homicides in 2020, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Nearly 53 people are killed each day by a firearm in the US, according to the data.
- Killings involving a gun accounted for nearly 79% of all homicides in 2020, according to the CDC.
- That’s a larger proportion of homicides than in Canada, Australia, England and Wales, and many other countries.
- Figures from the CDC show there were a total of more than 45,000 gun deaths in 2020 – of which more than 24,200 were suicides.
- Though mass shootings generally receive more media attention, the majority of gun-related deaths in the United States occur from suicide.
- A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found there was a strong relationship between higher levels of gun ownership in a state and higher firearm suicide rates for both men and women.
- Advocates for stricter gun laws in the United States often cite this statistic when pushing lawmakers to devote more resources to mental health and fewer to easing gun restrictions.
Divided support for stricter gun control laws?
- Support for stricter gun control is hyper-partisan in the United States.
- Democrats are nearly unanimous in their support for stricture gun laws,” with nearly 91% saying the sale of firearms should be “made more strict.” But only 24% of Republicans and 45% of Independents agreed with the same statement.
- However, some controls are widely supported by people across the political divide – such as restricting the sale of guns to people who are mentally ill, or on “watch” lists.
Who opposes gun control?
- Despite years of financial investigations and internal strife, the National Rifle Association (NRA) remains the most powerful gun lobby in the United States, with a substantial budget to influence members of Congress on gun policy.
- Due to pressure from Gun Lobby and some politicians, no strict law could ever be made against it.
- This year, the US state of Georgia became the 25th in the nation to eliminate the need for a permit to conceal or openly carry a firearm.
- The law was backed by the NRA, and leaders within the organisation called the move “a monumental moment for the Second Amendment”.
Laws for Gun control in the US
- While gun ownership is a right throughout the country, laws within different states vary about who can buy a gun.
- Gun control in the US is rooted in the Second Amendment of the country’s Constitution. According to information maintained by the Library of Congress, in June 2008, the Supreme Court, for the first time since 1939, issued a decision interpreting the Second Amendment. At the time, the court ruled that the amendment gave the right to US citizens to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defence.
- In 1968, following the assassinations of President John F Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy and Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Congress passed the Gun Control Act (GCA).
- The GCA aims to “keep firearms out of the hands of those not legally entitled to possess them because of age, criminal background or incompetency, and to assist law enforcement authorities in the states and their subdivisions in combating the increasing prevalence of crime in the United States.”
- After this, in the 1980s when the US was experiencing high levels of gun violence in the midst of the crack epidemic, Congress enacted the Comprehensive Crime Control Act and the Armed Career Criminal Act, which increased the sentences of those individuals who were convicted of using firearms in crimes of violence.
- A number of other measures were brought in after these laws. For instance, in 1986, the Congress loosened some of the controls imposed under the GCA, which made it easy for illegal gun traffickers to operate.
- In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which made it easier for persons engaged in firearms dealings to do a background check on their customers, making sure that felons and other prohibited persons couldn’t buy them.
- Even so, there is no single law or provision in the Constitution that determines gun control today. In fact, there is little consensus among experts about which kinds of gun laws and policy can have tangible effects on curbing violence.