In the United States, there were more mass killings in 2019 than ever before, a mass killing being an incident in which more than four people are killed. This type of massacre occurred 41 times this year, killing 211 people. A total of 14,800 people were killed in gun-related events, excluding suicides. Regardless of whether this is considered an issue of human rights or of public safety, the frequent occurrence of such massive killings by firearms in a U.S. governed by the rule of law is alarming.
Private ownership of firearms is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.* There are no official statistics regarding how many firearms Americans own, but it is generally estimated that it numbers in the hundreds of millions. There is no effective monitoring or tracking of who holds these guns or whether, at any moment, someone is preparing to use a certain gun as a lethal weapon. There exist all kinds of criminal motives in American society. So, with regard to criminals who use guns to kill people, the U.S. is in a constant state of crisis.
Private ownership of firearms is an American tradition passed down since the country’s founding, but in a highly modernized society, the problems with this tradition have already greatly outweighed its benefits. Crime is one of the increasingly prominent issues for many societies in the 21st century, and the large-scale circulation of firearms has added to how lethal crime is.
American society has already seen the severity of problems brought about by private firearm ownership, but there is great inertia behind the continued existence of such a large number of guns. Many interest groups have benefited from this phenomenon, and many citizens truly gain a sense of security from owning guns. Altering this 200-year-old habit will require tremendous political courage and changing the role of interest groups in politics. In the U.S. political system, this would entail tremendous challenges and uncertainty.
The facts have proven that the American system has no way to work around the complexities formed by the intersection of the political, economic, public safety and citizen opinion aspects of this issue. Not only is the U.S. government unable to manage the safe storage and use of so many privately owned firearms, but it also cannot establish a new national system that prohibits or severely restricts guns. It cannot even reach a majority opinion on the issue of firearms.
The U.S. is truly adopting a laissez-faire attitude toward the politics of firearms. This issue grows larger naturally and occurs randomly like a flood. At any given moment, it is matter of chance and luck in the U.S. as to whether someone will use a gun to vent a personal resentment and take revenge on society. It is also a matter of chance and luck as to whether an individual will suffer misfortune at the hands of a gun in their lifetime. The U.S. is not acting with respect to the political aspect of firearms. Overall, those who live in fear of experiencing a shooting, including those who have lost a loved one during a shooting, feel very helpless. They have no way to ask their country to solve the issue of firearms, and everyone in American society must accept the risk that a shooting could happen at any time.
This is America. The U.S. relies on its reputation as the most powerful nation in the West. It possesses unparalleled soft power and the power of global discourse as it forms the ideology that lethal shootings, even the one in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017 that led to the instant killing of 59 people, are a normal price to pay for a democratic country and should not be viewed as an issue of national governance. This is obviously a giant sore spot for America; an evil brought about by the U.S. government. However, with respect to both politics and public opinion, the U.S. government has successfully framed this issue as an American characteristic, even an eccentricity.
More than 200 people have been killed in mass shootings this year, and more than 10,000 people have been killed in other shooting incidents. This should obviously be defined as a serious human rights issue. In the world’s most modern society, people’s lives are threatened by unregulated firearms. Is there a more serious loophole in human rights than this? The U.S. has acted as the global human rights police for a long time while deliberately turning a blind eye to such an obvious lack of human rights within itself. The whole of society is helpless at the hands of this inactive government, and public opinion has been splintered by interest groups. It must be said that in the U.S., the modern and the barbaric have been woven together in a strange way, and people are being forced to get used to it.
*Editor’s note: The Second Amendment to the U.S Constitution provides, “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.”