The Devastating Toll of US Gun incidents: Over 13,000 Lives Lost in Just 4 Months
Editor’s Note: The author is Dr Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan, Executive Director of the Center for South Asia & International Studies (CSAIS) Islamabad and Regional Expert on China, BRI & CPEC. The article reflects the author’s opinions and not necessarily the views of Pakistan Economic Net.
According to an April 22nd article in the news website “Insider,” the gun culture in America has granted people the right to shoot others, encouraging them to “shoot first, ask questions later.” The article argues that American individualism is closely intertwined with its policies.
It appears that the United States has yet to shake off the lingering effects of the “Cowboy” mentality, as its brutal gun culture continues to manifest as a harsh social, communal, and political reality throughout the country. This deadly phenomenon has claimed the lives of countless children, youth, and ordinary citizens across numerous states. The proliferation of firearms poses a serious threat to the basic human rights of individuals and groups alike, a fact which should be deeply concerning to all.
Guns are not limited to larger cities in the United States; they are spreading to smaller towns and villages, where innocent individuals and marginalized groups are falling victim to their destructive power. As a result, tribalism is at an all-time high in the US, eroding the values of social decency, justice, harmony, and respect for divergent viewpoints that are essential to a civilized society.
According to the latest figures (from January 1 to April 29, 2023), more than 13,631 people have died in gun-related incidents in the USA, including 83 children ages 0–11. Guns surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death for US children and teenagers in 2020. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wonder database, firearms were responsible for nearly 19% of childhood deaths (ages 1-18) in 2021. In that year, nearly 3,600 children were killed in gun-related incidents. Gun shootings in schools, colleges, and universities killing innocent students have become a stigma in the US, a so-called “Statue of Liberty,” which is falling down very fast. California, often referred to as the “Golden State,” is anything but golden in light of the situation. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 600 mass shootings in the US in 2022 alone, and the number continues to rise with each passing day.
According to the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based research project, the most recent estimates indicate that as of 2018, there were approximately 390 million guns in circulation in the United States. This amounts to a ratio of 120.5 firearms for every 100 residents, which is a significant increase from the 88 per 100 ratios reported in 2011. The staggering difference between the US and other countries around the world in terms of gun ownership is truly astounding. Additionally, recent data shows that gun ownership has continued to increase in the US over the past few years.
After every shooting incident, there is a public outcry and a call to revoke the right to own guns. However, the US government has never implemented appropriate legal or administrative measures to address this grave issue, which reflects a shameful and gross negligence on the part of its politicians, policy makers, NGOs, media, and civil society as a whole.
The National Rifle Association, the most powerful gun lobby in the US, views any gun control measures as a violation of Americans’ constitutional right to possess and carry firearms. Moreover, the unchecked power of pro-gun interests and their influential lobbies over successive US governments has resulted in a political deadlock between the two dominant parties, the Democrats and Republicans. In 2021, gun rights groups spent over $15.8 million on lobbying in US politics, according to Open Secrets, a research group that monitors political spending.
While the US is one of the three countries in the world where gun ownership is a constitutional right, the other two countries, Guatemala and Mexico, have stricter laws and regulations in place to control gun culture.
In response, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would mandate federal background checks for all gun sales, including those by unlicensed and private sellers, in order to ensure that buyers are thoroughly vetted before making a purchase. Again, the said bill has been politicalized and stuck in the US Senate.