America has been seen as a country of metamorphosis, a country where citizens routinely encounter rapid changes, changes that were sometimes beneficial while at other times were accepted unwillingly and begrudgingly. Americans have seen numerous protests revolving around slavery, women’s rights, queer identities and rights of the LGBTQ community which have led to some remarkable moments in history like the abolition of slavery and granting women the right to vote.
But is it time that America came together again to protest against a more sinister villain?
The protest culture trending around the world undeniably serves as a warning for the American Gun culture which has been rooted in the American psyche for more than two centuries now– accepted by most, protested by some, played upon by others.
“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”, states the Second Amendment of the American Constitution. America’s gun culture is on the rise, with more number of citizens owning a gun and more number of government interventions having a role in it. The gun culture is so hard-coded into the DNA of Americans, that parents willingly pass on their guns to their own children along with their all-American genes.
The lines of Andrew Napolitano, an American columnist that “the police makes mistakes like the rest of us and simply cannot be everywhere when we need them. When government fails to realise this and it disarms us in selected zones, we become helpless before our enemies”, represents the American ideology of gun ownership. Justifying gun ownership as a sort of society’s act of self-reliance. Most Americans look forward to it, even though gun ownership in America is nothing less than a luxury. With careful research and endless exploration, these citizens venture into different gun shops and purchase guns and ammunition. Some even buy gun accessories like a cleaning kit, gun safe, etc., while others even take lessons to make sure they can use their guns if and when the situation calls for it.
Gun safety books for children are sold like a very normal thing.
But gun ownership is a luxury – Most American gun owners often state that a potential buyer needs to spend anywhere between $250 and $900 for buying a gun and maintaining it, which, only those belonging to the middle class and/or upper middle class are capable of, while the poorer ones are left outside its purview and by extension outside the purview of this so-called natural right to “self-defence”.
While most gun-toting Americans justify gun ownership as a means of protecting themselves, others want it merely for leisure activities like hunting.
Why is the American gun culture on the rise?
Not everyone living in America feels the need for personal security, nor is everyone engaged in hunting. Then why is there an upsurge of gun ownership?
“I have learned to duck from bullets before I learned to read”
-Edna Chavez, a Manual Arts High School Student.
These lines clearly indicate the kind of families that the current generation of children in the US are growing up in. Families play an extremely important role in keeping the gun culture alive; children in the South are brought up around guns and families portray it as a fairly common and healthy scenario for upbringing. What they see is what they learn and what they learn is eventually what they imbibe. Culture traps the individual, from which there is either no escape or it’s a very difficult breakaway. Gun culture works in a similar manner. With culture and society playing their role , there is some pressure on those who don’t “have” the need to own a gun, yet they “find” the need to own it.
In the paper, ‘America’s complex relationship with guns’ by Pew Research Centre, it is explicitly mentioned how majority of the people in America own guns. But it is also implied that there is still a substantial number of people who don’t own a gun and who don’t even see themselves owning one in future. As the paper implies, it is indeed a complex relationship wherein there exists gender differences with gun ownership a common phenomenon among men than women, and African American men are less likely to own a gun than white men. America is a huge country and generalizations don’t really work well. There exists regional differences with different statistics coming into picture for the South, Midwest and the West.
“I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world, period.”
-Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King’s granddaughter.
Many people around the country have protested against this gun culture, especially after the gun violence in Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School which rendered 17 students and staff members dead.
The protesters demanded stringent gun control measures and a peaceful society to live in. Several other gun violence incidents have given rise to anti-gun ownership attitudes among certain sections of the population who strongly believe that the presence and easy accessibility of a large number of guns and ammunition is the primary reason why shooters are able to engage in mass shootings. For these sections of the population, gun ownership isn’t the norm and definitely not the only way “to defend oneself”, rather it is an unequivocal end characterised by more mass shootings and other forms of gun massacres.
In a general research conducted on 26 developed countries on firearm availability and homicide rates, it was estimated that easy gun availability positively correlated with homicide, wherein the term “general” indicates persistence of these results even after USA is excluded from the data. (SOURCE: ‘Firearm availability and homicide rates across 26 High-Income countries’, David Hemenway and Mathew Miller) Of course, studies like these mean nothing to the over-eager gun-ownership advocacy groups who come up with creative slogans like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”.
They strongly advocate that it is not the ready availability of guns which lead to disastrous massacres but the “bad guys” who engage in such activities. Yet, this idea cannot conceal the disturbing statistics which clearly portray that in the US, 64% of majority homicides are undeniably related to guns.
With new research being conducted, several student protests happening, new policies and laws coming into picture and eloquent voices being raised by several journalists and writers, the lines are blurring between America’s gun culture and gun violence.
One can hope that the sound of guns firing don’t mute the voices debating the issue.
“Spread the word, have you heard? All across the nation. We are going to be a great generation.”
-Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King’s granddaughter.