Gun Deaths in the US

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Features, International

by Jamison Maeda

On any given day when you turn on your television or the radio in your car, you might hear about a fatal shooting in the US.

On July 17 a gunman shot seven people in Tennessee. Five of them, all members of the military, died from their injuries. On June 17 a gunman killed nine people at a black church in South Carolina. Eighty-two people were shot over the Fourth of July holiday weekend in Chicago alone.

Gun violence kills around 11,000 people in the United States each year. That’s an average of 30 people each day. Why does the US have so many more fire arm murders than other developed countries, and what can be done to reduce the number of deaths?

The truth is, no one knows because no one is looking into it.

In 1996 the NRA (National Rifle Association) launched an attack on the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention accusing it of lobbying for increased gun regulation. With the support of NRA allies in Congress, funding for gun research was stripped from the CDC budget, and wording was inserted into the appropriations bill stating that no funds would be used to “advocate or promote gun control.” Other agencies and organizations around the country took notice and dropped their gun-related research as well.

“The scientific community has been terrorized by the NRA” says Mark Rosenberg, former directory of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. And like the scientific community’s silence, law enforcement is sharing little or no information on gun crime. Only 750 law enforcement agencies out of 18,000 nationwide report their gun crime statistics to the federal government. Neither New York nor Florida report any at all.

After nearly two decades of no research on fire arm related deaths, President Obama ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to resume their studies of the causes of and solutions to gun violence. However, researchers are still hesitant to go up against the NRA.

This is because the NRA is one of the most powerful entities in US politics. And not because their ideals are shared by the majority of the American public. It comes down to the strongest force in American politics. Money.

The NRA, the firearms industry, and other gun organizations fund political candidates and run political ads. All combined, gun organizations have poured more than $80 million into congressional and presidential elections since 2000 including donations to current Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

Forever citing the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, some gun advocates claim the right to have as many guns as they like with no restrictions or government interference. But what the Second Amendment actually says is “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.” This was referring to the right of America’s states to form armed, well regulated militias, as at that time there was no federal army. It is unlikely that the writers of the Second Amendment intended for everyone to have weapons without regulation. And they certainly weren’t referring to a pre-1986 fully automatic M134 General Electric Minigun that fires up to 166 times per second. In fact, Chief Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger said the real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that states’ militias would be maintained for the defense of the state, and that “the very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.”

Most Americans are in favor of owning a gun for protection and self-defense. “I don’t like that the USA is a gun culture” says Margaret L. in San Francisco, California. “But because of that, honest people need guns to protect themselves from criminals. I know a lot of people in San Francisco who own guns because they can’t count on the police. I’ve called 911 twice and gotten a recording.” But no one needs to carry an AK-47 for protection, like a group of men in Texas who brought an AK-47 and other rifles to have lunch in a fast food restaurant.

Some Americans reject gun regulation based on the belief that they must arm themselves in the event that they’ll need to rise up in opposition to a tyrannical government. This is complete delusion as the United States military has 10 aircraft carriers, 8,000 attack helicopters, and nuclear weapons. If Americans are afraid of a tyrannical government, or that the military is coming to their house to take their guns, they should demand that their elected representatives stop spending $711 billion each year on the military.