Gun violence a long-lasting and deep rooted problem of American democracy
By Zhong Sheng
“Our flag at the White House was still flying at half — staff for the 8 victims of the mass shooting in Georgia, when 10 more lives were taken in a mass shooting in Colorado. In the week between those mass shootings, more than 250 other Americans were shot dead.”
Those were the remarks made by U.S. President Joe Biden in a recent speech at the U.S. Capitol.
The U.S. society is also grumbling about the ceaseless gun violence in the U.S., which mirrors the complaints of the U.S. public against the American democracy.
The frequent gun violence incidents are a severe challenge facing the U.S. society. According to U.S. media, more Americans have died from guns since 1975 (more than 1.5 million), than in all the wars in U.S. history — going back to the Revolutionary War.
According to Gun Violence Archive, more than 41,500 Americans died by gun violence in 2020, an average of more than 110 a day, which is a record. There had been 592 mass shootings nationwide, an average of more than 1.6 a day. Times magazine called 2020 as one of America’s most violent years in decades.
Biden also said once that gun violence in the U.S. is an epidemic, and a blemish on its character as nation.
Gun violence leads to a lack of sense of security, and the lack of sense of security leads to gun purchases. It is a vicious circle in the U.S.
A research by the University of California, Davis found that the failure of COVID-19 control in the U.S. consumed the confidence of the U.S. public in social stability, and many of the discommenders on gun possession started buying weapons, which led to a surge in gun sales amid the pandemic.
The Washington Post reported that nearly 23 million firearms were bought last year in the U.S., representing a 64 percent jump year over year. Eight million Americans bought guns for the first time in 2020, according to statistics released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. What’s more, U.S. gun sales in the first quarter of this year hit a record of nearly 5.5 million, the most guns sold in any three-month period since 1999.
Gun culture is deeply rooted in the traditional culture of the U.S., where hundreds of thousands of legal gun stores are opening, 10 times more than McDonald’s restaurants. Today, the country is home to nearly 400 million guns, which is far more than its 330-million population.
According to the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed. Obviously, the U.S. has laws to protect the right to gun possession, but it is not capable of stopping gun crimes.
The New York Times once studied 19 shootings from 2009 to 2018, and found that many of the guns used in mass shootings were bought legally and with a federal background check. An American critic pointed out that the life of Americans is a zero-sum game, in which the freedom to peaceful living is often replaced by the right to kill.
It makes sense that strict gun control reduces gun violence, but it doesn’t work under American democracy. Since the founding of the U.S., the country has approved 27 amendments to the constitution. The latest one was approved in 1789, but came into force in 1992.
To abolish or revise the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution seems an impossible mission. On legislation level, the Democrats and the Republicans have been standing against each other for a long time, so they often oppose each other just for the sake of opposing. The difficulty of promoting gun control act in the Capitol is conspicuous.
Of course, apart from facing difficulty in the Capitol, gun control acts will also be obstructed by interest groups, who obtain influence through huge political party funding and are totally capable of delaying and even stopping gun control.
No practical gun control act has been approved in the U.S. since 1994. The Obama administration once worked hard to advance gun control, but still ended up in vain.
Critics, disappointed, commented that the term “gun control” frequently appearing on U.S. media coverage are as prevalent as guns, but never implemented.
“The mass shootings in our society are not normal, nor are they inevitable. They are the outgrowth of inaction, cowardice and greed. They are the result of the callous policy of the gun lobby and the politicians kissing up to them,” said a U.S. media outlet in a recent report. It presented the pessimistic attitude of the U.S. public on the long-lasting gun violence.
In foreseeable future, the U.S. citizens might still be struggling in gun violence. What comes with evil gunfire are cries for gun control, and the cries fade with desperation, until the next shot is fired. It is a cycle in which people have to lose their lives.
(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy.)