To Europeans such as myself, the liberal approach to gun ownership in the U.S. is one of the most difficult political positions to understand. On a daily basis, one can read about how another tragic scenario has resulted in a person or persons being shot dead. In fact, there are commonly multiple scenarios such as this in the U.S. every day. In December last year, the Washington Post published results from the CDC that showed more people are killed by guns than in motor vehicle accidents in 22 states across the USA at present – a startling and frankly terrifying stat. Where human rights are concerned, guns quite obviously pose a significant threat to the enjoyment of our human rights, despite some quite entertaining arguments that suggest they actually support the application of human rights (see here for example, where it is suggested gun control is the “ultimate human rights violation”, as guns help us protect such rights from being infringed…). Even after reading such well-though out arguments (NOTE – although I jest about such pro-gun ownership arguments, this article provides evidence rubbishing claims that gun ownership support human rights by deterring people from infringing such rights if you are interested in the actual credibility of such stats), people generally understand that guns kill people, and to kill someone outright infringes their right to life, as well as every other human right we obtain as you simply cannot enjoy such rights without living. Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that the implementation of human rights would be supported by reducing the negative effects of gun ownership in America.
However, this article will suggest that the typically “European” suggestion that America either completely prohibits or severely restricts gun ownership (like in the UK) is not practical due to the depth of America’s political history with gun ownership and therefore we should be making efforts to instead try to support a realistic solution to the problem of America’s liberal position on gun ownership, due to the importance of the gun debate in American politics today.
According to the Congressional Research Service, there are more than 300 million guns in America. Furthermore, polls discussing gun controls in America very often end up close to a 50/50 split between leaving gun regulations as they are and making them stricter. Finally, we can look at recent votes on gun control in the Senate, which have come up short when looking for support to implement further gun controls time and time again, since Republicans became the most commonly supported party in the Senate at the last election. It is due to such stats that this article argues that to support far stricter regulations on gun control is an impractical solution to this problem. We have recently seen President Obama publicly cry over lack of support for amendments to gun legislations that involve changes as small as more extensive background checks. So to suggest that a practical solution to this problem would be to adopt the UK’s position is quite simply a useless argument in the current climate. In fact, such a climate suggests that any time any sort of gun legislation is put forward, many simply vote against it without even considering the implications of such an amendment.
The debate has become so political that it almost seems like it has been forgotten that innocent people are dying everyday due to gun crime, instead it is viewed as a power battle between the left and the right. This is the main problem currently with proposals for amendments to gun controls specifically. America is currently in a time where both the Democrats and Republicans are debating and voting for who they want to be their presidential candidate in the upcoming elections in November 2016. Therefore, the country (or at least the small percentage of the population which vote) are enthralled in the political arguments (and particularly where the Republicans are concerned, how shady the candidates can be towards each other) and looking to see which candidate they see as the strongest; typically identified by their insistence to ensure their policies are implemented. Now to suggest that amendments are made to gun controls, would dictate the Republican candidates weakening their stance on the matter and accepting changes which the majority of their voters disagree with. To do such a thing now, or indeed in the foreseeable future would damage their strength in this candidacy race significantly. Gun controls are unfortunately no longer a matter where political figures truly think about the fact that more Americans are killed by guns in their own country, than by terrorism or other such attacks elsewhere in the world – it is a matter of political power. So, to suggest that this stance will change in the near future, is immature and unrealistic.
So, what do we do instead? This article suggests that instead of concentrating solely on changing gun legislation itself, we consider supporting amendments to laws and policies that can implicitly support the reduction in gun crimes. This way, the political importance of the gun debate does not become a burden to the aims of those hoping to better protect lives and human rights from the dangers of such free gun ownership.
When deciding what exactly this means, it is not a simple answer. The reasons for gun crime cannot be reduced to one or two circumstances. As we can see from the recent shootings in Michigan, sometimes there are no obvious causes for gun violence. However, there are certain things which correlate with the risk of gun crime/deaths by firearms increasing. One of the most common reasons quoted for gun violence is mental illness, with phrases such as “crazy” and “deluded” often being used to describe those involved in gun violence. Although there is some correlation between gun violence and mental illness, the stats provided above suggest it may not be as high as many believe, but this does not mean it is not an important consideration. Not only is this skewed belief that those partaking in gun crime must be mentally ill a signal that more needs to be invested into education about mental health, but also approximately two-thirds of deaths caused by firearms in the US are suicides. One is not suggesting that all suicides can be solved through mental health education and support, but it would certainly go a long way to helping people avoid those awful thoughts and actions. Yet, mental health services have actually suffered cuts to their budget in recent years, which suggests more and more people will be in danger than the research so far suggests. So to support increased investment in mental health care and education can be a way to support reducing the effects of the gun ownership laws.
Secondly, studies have shown poor, urban areas to be the most common environment in which gun violence occurs. More specifically African-American young males seem to be the most vulnerable to such crimes in these areas. Therefore, the next suggestion would be to invest more money into these areas and to these communities; investing in education to prevent gun crime, i.e. teaching young adults and children alike about the dangers of guns and gangs, as well as providing further opportunities to get involved in activities to help reduce the likelihood of getting involved in such scenarios if possible.
Such suggestions are far from achieving the ultimate goal of reducing America’s gun violence to the levels seen in Europe, nor does it suggest that such amendments to budgetary allowances will have 100% success. Unfortunately some people are currently born into areas and feuds from which they cannot escape violence, and that is yet another consideration for the American government and people, to help achieve a safer society where human rights are respected further and American citizens do not have to worry so much about gun legislation. However, one suggests it would certainly be a step in the right direction. In a time where tensions seem to be rising due to the popularity of certain policies being proposed, the time for action is now. And as a final note to anyone who may ask where I suggest America finds this money from to improve such services, I simply say that according to a study by Mother Jones, America pays $12.8 million a day to cover death and injury caused by guns. The results can pay for themselves by reducing this bill footed by the American taxpayer, as well as offering further safety and better protection of human rights in a country where freedom is central to their beliefs.
Photo courtesy of saturdayeveningpost.com