Why guns are American ‘culture’ and shootings an epidemic
Bowling for Columbine was released in 2002, three years after the largest school shooting in the United States, which prompted Moore to explore the factors that led to the 1999 massacre. Two 12th graders, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold , who were taking bowling lessons at Columbine High School in Colorado, killed 12 students and a teacher before shooting themselves dead.
Democrat Bill Clinton was then President of the United States. Twenty-three years and multiple school shootings later, another Democrat, President Joe Biden, spoke to the press on Tuesday about the same gun culture after an 18-year-old killed 21 people. including 19 children at Robb Elementary School in Texas.
Biden said, “These types of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world. Why?”
A right to arms
The Second Amendment to the US Constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms. And, about 30% of the American population makes use of this right.
A Pew Research Center survey found that four in 10 Americans had at least one gun in their household in 2021. Three in 10 Americans said they owned a gun themselves.
The prevalence of guns in American households is surprising given that in the same Pew survey, 94% of people identified guns as a “problem,” with 56% calling it a “big problem.” And 53% – a drop of 7% from 2017 to 2021 – believed that Americans want tougher gun control laws.
In his film, considered one of the greatest documentaries of all time, Moore blames America’s culture of violence for the filming incidents. He found that this culture of violence permeated the American psyche due to free gun policies at home and destructive missiles fired elsewhere in the world. Many find a connection between the increase in mass shootings in the United States and the military action of American forces in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
According to a Swiss-based research project, the Small Arms Survey, the United States has 120.5 firearms (pistols) per 100 people (2018) – the highest ratio in the world. The survey indicates that the number of firearms owned by individuals has increased over the past decade, from 88 percent in 2011 in the United States.
Another study, published by the Annals of Internal Medicine in February this year, found that 7.5 million American adults – nearly 3% of the population – became first-time gun owners between January 2019 and April 2021, exposing 11 million additional people including 5 million children to firearms.
The American Academy of Pediatrics published a study in 2021 linking higher rates of firearm injuries in and by children to increased gun ownership during the Covid-19 pandemic. .
The gun problem
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 53 people are killed each year in firearm-related incidents in the country. Some estimates, however, put the number at 90. About 1.5 million gun deaths occurred in the United States between 1968 and 2017 – more than the number of soldiers killed in every American conflict since the war. American independence in 1775, reported the BBC.
In 2020, for which full death data is available, 45,222 people lost their lives to firearms in the United States, according to CDC data. The number includes murders and suicides, and is the highest in a year, registering a 25% increase over the past five years and a 43% increase since 2010.
The horror of mass killings
Mass shootings, known as “active shooter incidents” in the United States, are tracked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). FBI documents, available in the public domain, show that more than 1,000 people died in the United States between 2000 and 2020 in which 345 “active shooter incidents” were recorded. The deadliest of the attacks was the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting which left 58 dead and more than 500 injured.
Among mass school shootings, the 2012 incident in Connecticut was the deadliest with 27 people losing their lives. Of mass murders on campus, the 2007 Virginia Polytechnic Institute shooting was the deadliest with 32 killed in a single incident. But the biggest of all was a series of explosions in 1927 at Michigan’s Bath School, where 45 people died.
Why don’t they do anything?
With firearms entrenched in the American psyche, it’s a hotly contested debate in the country’s politics. Generally speaking, Democrats are in favor of gun control laws while Republicans want to keep guns free from control. Of the 50 states in the United States, only 10 have restrictions on the purchase and possession of weapons by individuals.
Donald Trump has been a leading advocate of free gun culture in the United States of late. It was one of his electoral arguments in 2016, when he won the presidential election. A Gallup survey that year suggested that 76% of Americans agreed with Donald Trump. He lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden, who like Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama favors gun control laws.
“When in the name of God are we going to stand up to the gun lobby,” Biden said after the latest shooting incident. “It’s time to turn this pain into action for every parent, for every citizen of this country.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is considered the most powerful gun lobby in the United States and is known for using its power and finances to influence members of Congress on gun policy. In every election, the NRA — which filed for bankruptcy in January this year — campaigns for candidates who promise to abide by the Second Amendment.
Selling guns is a profitable business in the United States. A report by Forbes estimated the US firearms trade at $28 billion for 2018. The volume of firearms sales reached a record high of over 23 million in 2020 before registering a decline of around 12.5% in 2021.
This could explain why the United States has recorded 212 mass shootings and 27 school shootings so far this year, according to gun control group Everytown. The Texas school shooting also raises questions about the mental health of students in the United States, with reports indicating that gunman Salvador Rolando Ramos, who was killed in a police action, was severely bullied at school and was depressed.