EXPLAINER: The Age-Old Gun Dilemma of the United States

By John Anton Garcia

Last May 24 (CDT), a Tuesday morning spent in preparation for a nearing summer break for Robb Elementary turned into a gruesome tragedy as gunman Salvador Ramos fanned the flames of an interminable debate on US gun violence.


In what was reported to be an hour-long ordeal, 21 fatalities—19 of whom were children and two were teachers—were recorded by local authorities while 17 more were injured as a local elementary school in Uvalde, Texas was the setting for America’s deadliest school shooting in almost a decade.

"It's the first thing he did when he turned 18," uttered Uvalde representative Sen. Roland Gutierrez in a press briefing. Two military-grade assault rifles were the gunman’s birthday gift for himself just a week before the mass shooting incident. In the same period, he also purchased 375 rounds of ammunition, legally. 

Elsewhere in the world, stricter regulations as solutions seem to be perfectly reasonable; however, an LA Times article seems to perfectly encapsulate the situation in the USA: ‘Gun violence is America’s way of life — and death’.
  
The figures

According to non-profit research group The Gun Violence Archive, a shocking total of 8, 195 deaths and 15,417 injuries were reported during the first five months of 2022 alone.

From these casualties, at least 468 of the victims were reported to be children under the age of 11 while 1957 were reported to be teenagers under 18. To put this into perspective, approximately 1 in 10 of the country’s gun violence victims for 2022 were minors.

During that same period, the same organization reported the verification of 233 mass shooting incidents—encounters where at least four victims were shot.

From these staggering numbers, one would perhaps ponder the reasons behind this year sticking out like a sore thumb for gun violence— well, it is indifferent. It is expected that these figures will multiply as the year furthers.
 
A seven year review from 2014-2020 has reported increases in the volume of verified reports of gun violence related deaths and mass shootings, from 12,418 to 19,411 and from 269 to 611, respectively. Furthermore, while the aforementioned incident in Uvalde is sure to be recorded in infamy beyond the limelight in international news it is currently in, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting was the most notorious with 28 deaths. In scale and in prominence, It was unprecedented; but it was succeeded by many more tragic events.

From these numerous incidents and after hearing countless sentiments exclusive to the country, publications have tagged gun violence incidents as “exclusive” phenomena for the United States.

The facts

Among the cardinal facets of the Uvalde school shooting is the profile of the gunman: an 18-year-old who was able to easefully acquire two high-powered firearms, all in accordance with the law. 

State legislators from America’s two-party federal system have long debated the calibration of gun regulations in response to novel threats and observations drawn from the populace. However, constitutionality often takes center stage as the Second Amendment reads: 

“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.”

In spite of this, gun regulatory laws that have been promulgated for certain states have proven to be effective.  

In Connecticut, reported homicides and suicides notably diminished after legislators enacted licensing charters and safety training requirements. In contrast, Missouri recorded an additional 55 gun-related homicides reported after the state repealed its licensing laws in 2017. A June 2022 article in the Washington Post cited this as “treating guns like we treat cars”.

California’s extensive “red-flag” laws have also proven to be effective. Through background checks, community-based initiatives, and generally stricter regulations and restrictions, a case study has assessed that the state has avoided at least 21 probable mass shootings. Furthermore, a World Population Review report cited the state to have the “strictest gun control laws” and similarly reported that it has the seventh-lowest rate of deaths by gun violence.

The failures

However, the age-old dilemma of gun control and regulations in the United States seem to go beyond a fairly simple legal framework. When associated with convention and political contexts, those who are known to be ‘conservative’ or traditionalists often tend to go against restrictive gun laws. On the other hand, those who are referred to as “progressive” or reformists have the inclination to advocate for strict gun regulations.

In support of this, a 2017 publication by the Pew Research Center illustrated large deviations between Republican and Democratic legislators in their perceptions on key issues related to gun violence. For example, there was a 32% difference in the quantified preferences of Republicans and Democrats in the topic of high-capacity ammunition magazines, where the latter were 79% likely to push for its banning.

Beyond the facts and the figures, analyzing the general American climate in opinions toward gun laws requires deeper case studies on a myriad of factors associated with the subject.

The figures say that the gun violence problem of the USA, when compared to the rest of the world, is beyond alarming. The facts say that gun regulations prove to be potent solutions to control gun violence incidents in a number of states. However, it seems to be an ongoing failure when it comes to bridging the gap between these sentiments. 



REFERENCES:

[1] Bleiberg, J. (2022, May 31). Timeline: Texas elementary school shooting, minute by minute. AP NEWS. Retrieved June 4, 2022, from https://apnews.com/article/texas-school-shooting-timeline-6069b0cf01e5f732ef55f9fd0b7109d7

[2] Cable News Network. (n.d.). How law enforcement's narrative of the Uvalde Massacre has changed. CNN. Retrieved June 4, 2022, from https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2022/06/us/uvalde-police-narratives-texas-shooting/index.html

[3] Gebelhoff, R. (2022, June 3). Opinion | 6 solutions to gun violence that could work. The Washington Post. Retrieved June 4, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/02/gun-control-solutions-that-work/

[4] Gun violence archive. Gun Violence Archive. (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2022, from https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/

[5] Levenson, E., Chapman, I., & Prokupecz, S. (2022, May 27). Uvalde School shooting suspect was a loner who bought two assault rifles for his 18th birthday. CNN. Retrieved June 4, 2022, from https://edition.cnn.com/2022/05/25/us/uvalde-texas-school-shooting-salvador-ramos/index.html

[6] Los Angeles Times. (2022, April 4). Editorial: Gun violence is America's way of life - and death. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 4, 2022, from https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-04-04/editorial-gun-violence-sacramento-mass-shooting

[7] Oliphant, J. B. (2020, August 28). Bipartisan support for some gun proposals, Stark Partisan Divisions on many others. Pew Research Center. Retrieved June 4, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/23/bipartisan-support-for-some-gun-proposals-stark-partisan-divisions-on-many-others/

[8] Schaeffer, K. (2021, September 13). Key facts about Americans and guns. Pew Research Center. Retrieved June 4, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/09/13/key-facts-about-americans-and-guns/

[9] World Population Review. (n.d.). Strictest Gun Laws by State 2022. Strictest gun laws by state 2022. Retrieved June 4, 2022, from https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/strictest-gun-laws-by-state 
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