American Gun Culture: Nearly 50,000 Deaths In 2021 – OpEd


Believe it or not 48,830 people died from gun-related injuries in the US in 202, according to the latest available statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) based on a Pew Research Center. Mass shootings are a common feature of the American gun culture taking place especially in schools. Since 2019 mass shootings are on the increase from 417 incidents to 610 in 2020, 690 in 2021, 647 in 2022 and 565 up to October 26, 2023. There were 44,310 such deaths in 2022 and at least 35,275 people have died from gun violence so far, which is difficult to believe but is a fact. Even if the US had participated in the Ukraine war, it is unimaginable that such a high number of casualties would have taken place.

The mass shooting incident in Maine in northeastern US on the evening of October 25, 2023 sent shockwaves throughout the country. It resulted in at least 18 deaths and injuries to another 13 people. This is the deadliest shooting incident in the US this year. The White House ordered to lower the flag to half-mast. The deadliest such attack, in Las Vegas in 2017, killed more than 50 people and left 500 wounded. After every mass shooting incident, the widespread availability of firearms in the US and lax gun control is discussed and forgotten until the next incident. This is an issue that the US has been unable to resolve.

“Another Shooting in the US” may no longer be considered as “News” to many Americans today. The US is the top 10 civilian gun owning countries in the world with 120 weapons for every 100 residents followed by a distant second Yemen with 53 weapons for every 100 residents. 

The US Constitution establishes ‘The right of the people to keep and bear arms. The US is the number ‘One’ consumer, exporter and perpetrator of violent conflicts in the world. America is a nation that makes a living through defense contract profits, weapons manufacturing through profit-driven military industrial complex and endless wars. The ongoing Ukraine-Russia war and the latest Israel-Hamas conflict are the recent examples. 

America spends more on war than the combined military budgets of China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy and Brazil. America polices the globe, with 800 military bases and troops stationed in countries all over the world.

The so-called gun lobby supports candidates who have pledged opposition to gun control measures. It includes direct contributions to legislators, efforts to independently support elected officials, and campaigns to sway public opinion on issues related to firearms. These lobbies have close ties with the multi-billion-dollar firearms industry in the US.

From 1998 to 2020, pro-gun groups paid $171.9 million in lobbying to directly affect legislation, according to Open Secrets, a non-profit that tracks spending in US politics. Since 1998, the NRA alone paid $63,857,564 in that category. Trump repeatedly promised to support gun rights, in 2017 telling the NRA “I will never, ever let you down.” 

US Presidents instead of asking Americans to stand up to gun lobby need to first amend or modify ‘The right of the people to keep and bear arms’  which has been enshrined in the US Constitution with stringent laws, as the US has lenient gun control laws and firearms can be purchased fairly easily. There is a need to stop the practice of legislators being supported by the gun lobby. 

Some states have taken steps to ban or strictly regulate ownership of assault weapons. Laws vary by state but California, for example, has banned ownership of assault weapons with limited exceptions.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) remains the most powerful gun lobby in the US, with a substantial budget to influence members of Congress on gun policy.

Know the National Rifle Association (NRA)?

The NRA was founded in 1871 as a recreational group designed to “promote and encourage rifle shooting”. The National Rifle Association has grown into one of the most powerful political organizations in the US and it lobbies heavily against all forms of gun control and argues aggressively that, “more guns make the country safer”. It directly funds US politicians and lawmakers who support its aims.

The NRA’s membership estimates vary widely. The association claimed that membership rose to nearly to five million. However, some analysts put the figure at closer to three million. In 2022, the NRA received $97 million (£78m) from membership dues. Open Secrets’ figures suggest that since 2010, the NRA has directed more than $140 million to pro-gun election candidates. In 2021, gun control groups spent $2.9 million on lobbying.

The NRA grades members of Congress from A to F on their perceived friendliness to gun rights. Those ratings can cost pro-gun control candidates their seats. Actor Charlton Heston, a long-serving NRA president, after the school shooting at the Nashville school on March 27, “Called for more security in schools”, rather than restrictions on gun ownership. In 2018, the NRA backed a call by then President Donald Trump to “Arm teachers and other members of staff” to deter gun attacks – although many teachers do not want to be armed. The NRA held its 2023 annual meeting in Indianapolis on April 14, with former US President Donald Trump addressing the delegates.

The US is always inclined to talk about “Security Threats” the world over and seeks out imaginary enemies.  Had this same gun culture been prevalent in some underdeveloped country with half the number of deaths the US may have intervened.

Patial RC

Patial RC is a retired Infantry officer of the Indian Army and possesses unique experience of serving in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. Patial RC is a regular writer on military and travel matters in military professional journals. The veteran is a keen mountaineer and a trekker.

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