American gun violence is a dreadful epidemic – but is no surprise

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of InQuire Media

Image: Bloomberg

When the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas occurred on 3 August, killing 22 people, the world was once again filled with sadness and sympathy for those involved, alongside deep confusion as to how somebody could commit such an atrocious act of violence. The world wasn’t, however, surprised by the news.

Without even looking at the statistics, such normality presents a real problem; the fact that, although horrified by gun violence, we are no longer surprised by it. Acts of gun violence and mass shootings are an epidemic in the USA; according to the BBC, over 36,000 people died from gun violence in 2016, with over 14,000 being homicides. According to the Gun Violence Archive, since January there have been over 280 mass shootings across America – that is more than one every day so far this year. These figures clearly suggest things need to change.

It begs the question as to why the American government is not doing enough to prevent gun violence. In 2017, President Trump promised that he would not “infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms”. Owning a gun is something that many Americans feel is their fundamental right. However, it has become clear that this belief isn’t really good enough. It doesn’t make a good defence for the thousands of victims of guns every year.

So why is it so difficult to reform gun laws? Firstly, America has a powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, that makes it hard to altogether ban them. ‘Profits before people’ is a phrase that comes to mind in the context of the gun lobby. The firearm industry also brings in huge amounts of money to the country. This isn’t the only reason of course. Previous presidents, such as Barack Obama or Bill Clinton put lots of effort into gun control legalisation, indicating that it is not as simple as just banning guns.

America is going in other directions to tackle the problem, like schools being redesigned to tackle mass shootings. It is terrible that this is the extent it has got to; that buildings are being redesigned to reduce the casualties from another school shooting. It is obvious America is expecting further attacks, it would be naïve not to, but instead of tackling the problem at the root cause, the government is leaving architects with the responsibility to lessen the horrific effects of school shootings.

President Trump is considering the possibility of arming teachers with guns in case of an attack. The theory behind this is simple; if a gunman enters a school, teachers will be able to protect themselves and their students. However, imagine this in practise; will teacher selection be based on their ability to inspire students, or their ability to shoot straight? Having firearms present in school environments is just not a good idea. It doesn’t create a safe learning environment. In addition, imagine the abuse of power that could occur if adults in charge were given weapons, not to mention the damaging effect from asking teachers to be prepared to shoot if necessary.

Instead of restricting the use of guns and making it harder for such awful events to happen, America is simply preparing for the next shooting. It may be written in the constitution, and Americans may be entitled to their fundamental right, but it really comes down to whether owning a gun is worth the damage it causes. School shootings, racial shootings, murder and all other acts of gun crimes are committed by few people, but with awful results. Most gun owners would never dream of hurting people; but the few that do are surely enough reason to tighten gun laws across the United States. A gun is a machine made to kill – so why are killing machines so easy to obtain? It is very unlikely that America could pass a law that prohibits gun ownership, like in Great Britain, but an extreme reformation in gun laws is needed if we are to see a significant drop in America’s gun violence. Opinions on gun control are changing, more Americans are fighting for tighter laws, which is a good thing. It is time for the government to start fighting the problem from its roots, rather than trying to reduce its detrimental effects.

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