Shootings and gun violence have become so common they no longer surprise anyone. It is news for a few hours, then it fades into the background, as happened on June 14, when a group of Republican legislators were practicing for an upcoming exhibition charity baseball game. A Democratic fanatic, James Hodgkinson, opened fire, seriously wounding Steve Scalise, the third-ranking congressman in the House of Representatives.
This is what the United States is today. A country with political violence where, thanks to the abundance of firearms, insults have gone from words to shootings. “If America is polarized and violent now,” says Jeet Heer in the New Republic, “it’s because it has long been that way … It shouldn't surprise us that a colonial settler society that wiped out the Native American population, imported slave labor, and relied on vigilante violence to police newly incorporated territories should be prone to political violence.”
While most Americans love God and love life, ironically they also love their guns in a baffling contradiction. How is it that the most powerful, most democratic and supposedly, most advanced country on the planet routinely accepts bloodbaths and mass shootings? How did it become a place where there is a greater chance of dying at a baseball game, in school or at work than in a war zone?
It seems like it doesn't matter that 20 children died in an elementary school or that 12 people were killed in a movie theater watching “Batman,” or that three dozen students lost their lives at a university or that 49 innocents were massacred at a nightclub. Horrific events that, nevertheless, failed to change either the laws or the feelings of those who oppose greater gun control.
There is unending mourning in the U.S. because 325 million people live with 310 million guns. The latest statistics show that there are 101 guns for each 100 citizens. No wonder that in this country, making up 5 percent of the world’s population, more than 50 percent of all weapons are in the hands of its civilians.
Those who oppose more restrictions are off base in arguing that it is not guns that kill people, but rather people who kill people. Cars do not kill people either − poor drivers do − but that does not block measures preventing vehicle deaths. Thanks to current efforts, there are only 1.1 deaths per 100 million kilometers driven (approximately 62.1 million miles), while in recent years the number of people who have died from use of a firearm averages 32,000 each year, including suicides.
The type of violence we see in the U.S. does not occur in developed countries, at least not at the same rate. Unfortunately, at the center of this is the powerful and influential National Rifle Association. But it is also because this is a country with a history full of guns. The country was founded at gunpoint: first in the revolt against British invaders, and later by the armed colonists violently settling the “Old West.” For many Americans, guns represent the heart and identity of their country.
Obtaining a gun is easy and only takes a few minutes. If you go to a store, you can fill out a form and they check for a criminal record with a phone call, but never investigate your mental state. If the sale is made between private individuals, no check is required. You pay and the gun is yours. Those opposed to gun control see it as a violation of their constitutional right to arm themselves; a right that in some states, such as Iowa, extends to those who are blind or even those on the government's terrorist watch list.
In some states, firearms are not allowed on university campuses but are permitted in elementary schools, day care centers, and churches, while 26 states allow guns to be carried in taverns and bars. In Washington, D.C., guns are strictly forbidden on Capitol Hill, where the very Congress that is obstructing change is located. While they argue that handguns and rifles provide security and protection, this time it literally backfired on them.