In May, a 3-year-old child in Alabama shot his 6-year-old sister with a gun in their home, killing her. That same evening, in Minnesota, a 6-year-old girl who was with her mother at a hamburger shop was killed in the crossfire from a gunfight.
These random shooting incidents that have caught everyone’s attention are not the only ones plaguing the U.S., which can be called a “gun society.” All around the country, it has become an ordinary occurrence for innocent citizens to tragically and senselessly lose their lives.
There is a surge in these incidents and accidents. Last year, not counting suicides, cases of lives lost to guns increased by 25% over the previous year. Also, as of May of this year, over 8,000 people have died. The numbers are on pace to exceed last year’s figures by 20%.
The main cause has been identified as the COVID-19 crisis. Unemployment has proliferated; societal anxiety and dissatisfaction have gotten stronger. The effects of schools and public facilities closing and weakening of community support appear to be significant.
Some commentators have said that due to widespread police brutality and protests against discrimination, police have been overworked and undermined. Conversely, others have indicated that due to lack of trust in the police, an increasing number of citizens have stopped reporting crimes to police and have turned to self-defense instead.
The backdrop is complicated, but clearly, the reality is that the spread of small arms has become a serious problem.
Last year, in the wake of fear due to COVID-19, many people purchased firearms, with the number of transactions increasing by 60% over the previous year. It is a natural result that the closer people are to guns, the more involved they will get with related crimes. As public safety deteriorates, more people get their hands on guns. This vicious cycle must be broken.
U.S. President Joe Biden remarked that “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment.” Moreover, he announced steps to regulate prefabricated, homemade guns that have no serial numbers and are difficult to track. We hope that these statements indicate a resolution to put in place significant political measures to address the gun problem.
However, there are limits to the steps that the president has authority to take. Homemade guns are only a very small portion of the large number of guns that have proliferated. Merely urging Congress and the states to take regulatory action is not effective.
In the U.S., it is relatively easy to acquire high-powered, highly lethal, rapid-fire guns. In addition, in onsite gun sales and internet transactions, there are many loopholes to bypass background checks. Congress must make serious efforts to establish laws preventing these loopholes.
The U.S. Constitution recognizes the right for citizens to bear arms in self-defense. However, the question is how to protect human life, which is the basis of a government. Is it possible to say that a society that is flooded with 400 million guns, a number greater than the population itself, is safe? Does a civil society need guns like those used in war? There must be a reasonable discussion.
There is also a pressing need for the police to win back public trust. We hope that factional divisions can be crossed, enabling efforts to restore citizens’ trust in police to protect public safety.