Estimates show that roughly 250,000 people die from gun/firearm-related violence each year. This figure has been steadily increasing from much lower levels.
There are an estimated 2,000 gunshot injuries every day. At least 2 million people are living with gunshot injuries around the globe. There were about 134,000 gunshot injuries in 2017. On average 360 gunshot hospitalisations daily.
Amnesty International describes gun/firearm violence as a global human rights issue, and that it threatens our most basic human right, which is the right to life. In spite of the existence of weapons of mass destruction and other higher calibre weapons, small arms account for most gun/firearm violence.
What is Gun Violence
Gun violence is:
- Harming people with a firearm.
- Use of a gun to cause damage, death, injury, or theft.
- Forcing one or many to act against their will, while armed with a gun.
Types of Gun/Firearm Violence
- Suicide: This is when a person deliberately kills themself with a gun.
- Domestic Violence: Harming or threatening to harm family or close friends in a home with a gun.
- International Homicide: Global, gun-related murder.
- Robbery and Assault: Forcibly taking valuables, physical or sexual attacks with aid of a firearm.
- Police Brutality: Illegal physical treatment or harm by law enforcement using guns.
- Accidental Firearm Death: Unintentional killing from indiscriminate use of firearms.
- Kidnapping at Gunpoint: Armed abduction.
- Terrorism: Instilling fear in a community from serial gun attacks.
- Illegal Armed Occupation: Invading and taking control of communities that belong to others with guns.
- Extortion with the aid of Firearms: Illegally collecting kickbacks,
- War Crimes involving the use of Guns: Illegal acts during times of war.
- Genocide: Mass murder.
Victims of Gun/Firearm Violence
Vulnerable people suffer gun violence the most.
- Women and children.
- The elderly.
- The underprivileged
Women and Children
These people are usually at higher risk for a number of reasons. Firstly, a child is not as mobile nor as aware as an adult. The mother will risk her own safety to protect the child. Mothers and children spend more time at home than men.
The elderly are also not very mobile. This makes them an easy target. This may be intentional or unintentional. It is intentional if they were the target and unintentional when they were not. Alternatively, they could also die from the shock or trauma of witnessing gun violence.
The underprivileged also suffer from gun/firearm violence mainly because they reside in low-income neighbourhoods. These places are homes to a lot of people who earn very little or nothing at all. This makes some of them desperate enough to commit crimes.
These areas have a high population that leads to more close interactions which in turn leads to more opportunities for conflict.
There are a lot of problems in these areas. This increases the atmosphere of frustration. This can lead to violence of which the favoured tool is most often a gun.
Gun violence is common in the ghettos and slums. This is partly because illegal firearms are easy to obtain in such places. The poor lack good housing. This is in terms of security, healthcare, and even freedom from harassment. Areas of low-income earners and minorities, officials supposed to protect sometimes do harm.
Armed gangs sometimes operate in these areas. This is largely due to a lot of idle youth from underprivileged backgrounds.
Gun Violence: Homes Now In The Crosshairs
The home is often a target for:
- Home Invasion
The above are basically guns crimes and constitute a global menace; though they are prevalent in certain nations where women and children are taken as hostages. This is to use them to bargain for a ransom. They know spouses will spare almost no cost to have them returned.
Causes of Gun/Firearm Violence
There are several factors that can lead to gun violence. The U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there were 38,300 deaths from gun violence in 2019. Of this figure, more than 23,900 were suicides.
A 2016 Study was carried out and published in the American Journal of Public Health. It found some interesting results. That there is a strong link between higher levels of gun ownership in a state and higher firearm suicides rates. This is for both men and women in that state. Research shows that suicides account for up to 60% of all gun deaths. This is especially true in the developed countries.
Factors that cause or contribute to gun violence:
- Easy access to firearms whether legal or not is one of the main drivers of gun violence.
- Mental health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Bipolar disease – are the major causes of mass shootings and suicides; with suicides accounting for the majority of gun violence-related deaths. This puts mental health at the centre of gun violence.
What causes gun violence?
Many good innocent people have fallen to the violence. There are several conflict situations that end in death. The tool is the same but the reasons many. They usually fall under the following:
- Domestic Violence
- Gang Violence
- Political conflict
- Drug wars
- Money conflict.
Suicides contribute to a large percentage of gun-related deaths. This seems to show that there is a huge problem. This is the issue of mental health and a healthy level of self-control and worth. A lot of people that have mental health problems don’t even know. They may not realise it but may act it out. Early diagnosis would lead to professional help. It may save countless lives.
In many cases, past offenders are allowed to legally purchase firearms. These people then go ahead and commit crimes again using guns purchased formally. This is why there is an ongoing debate in the U.S. This debate, which is a hot topic, tries to address the issue of bans and background checks.
Gun Violence Statistics
In 2016 more than 250,000 people worldwide died from gun violence. Half of those deaths came from just 6 nations. Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala and The United States who, are by far leading the world in the prevalence of gun violence.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study that found that the 6 countries that account for half of the world’s deaths, only hold about 10% of the world’s population.
Top 10 Civilian Gun Owning Countries
A survey carried out by The BBC indicating the top 10 civilian gun-owning countries with firearms per 100 residents shows;
- Yemen has 52.8 firearms per 100 residents.
- Serbia has 39.1 firearms per 100 people.
- Montenegro 39.1 per 100 residents
- Uruguay has 34.7 guns per 100 residents.
- Canada was shown to have 34.7 guns per 100 citizens.
- Cyprus has 34 per 100.
- Finland 32.4 firearms per 100 people.
- Lebanon has 31.9 guns per 100.
- Iceland clocked in at 31.7 guns per 100 citizens.
- The United States at 120.5 firearms per 100 citizens, more than doubles that of Yemen which is the closest nation following with 52.8 per 100.
Switzerland and Finland are two of the European countries that have the most guns per person. Their figures are not necessarily a result of the proliferation of small arms and other firearm violence-related issues. Those countries have compulsory military service for all men over the age of 18. The Finnish interior ministry has stated that about 60% of gun permits are granted for hunting, which is a popular pastime in Finland. Cyprus and Yemen also have mandatory military service.
Gun Violence in America
Statistics coming from The U.S. involving firearms violence are quite staggering. They are so extensive and severe that we will look at an edited summary. This is to avoid making the study too lengthy and boring.
There is an average of 390 million guns in circulation in the U.S., against a population of 300 million citizens. That is more guns in that country than even people.
About 1.4 million people have died from gun violence in the United States between 1968 and 2011. Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the U.S. gun-related homicide rate is 25 times higher.
Although it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, the United States has 82% of gun violence-related deaths. Globally, the US accounts for 90% of all women killed with guns, 91% of children under the age of 14 killed by gun violence, as well as 92% of young people killed by guns between the ages of 15 to 24.
The World’s Gun Capital
The U.S. also leads the world in the number of guns owned by citizens and it is also the nation with the highest number of small arms in circulation.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Centre for Health Statistics reports that:
- There were 38,390 deaths in 2018 (the most recent date for which there is available data) by firearms; 24,432 were suicide and 13,958 were homicide.
- The rate of gun violence deaths per 100,000 people rose from 10.3 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 12 per 100,000 people in 2017.
- There are currently 109 people dying daily due to gun violence.
- An average of 39,000 people die from gunshots every year.
- Every 16 hours a woman in the U.S. is shot and killed by a current or former intimate partner.
- Suicides account for 60% of all firearm-related deaths.
The ownership and regulation of firearms are among the most widely debated issues both in the past and currently in The United States.
Given the dire severity of the situation, it’s hard to fathom it any worse. However, from The CDC’s analysis and statistics, it is quite clear that the situation is steadily becoming worse. Attacks are becoming deadlier in recent times. The Las Vegas attack in 2017 was the worst mass shooting event in recent U.S. history. Eight of the other shootings with the highest number of casualties happened within the past ten years.
Support For Gun Control
The majority of Americans generally support gun control and measures to curb gun violence. However, the nation has been bitterly divided on this issue. The percentage of public opinion of who supports and who opposes has fluctuated over the years.
A Few Voices Of Reason
Reputed organisations like Amnesty International, Unicef, World Food Programme, The United Nations, Green Peace and other human and animal rights groups have always advocated against general arms proliferation and violence of any kind.
Celebrities and world leaders of repute like the Dalai Lama and others have thrown their weight behind gun control.
Religious leaders and organisations have also consistently spoken out against gun violence.
Ordinary citizens all over the world including The United States have staged peaceful, and sometimes violent protests over the same issue.
Too Little Regulation, Restrictions and Bans?
Some states have taken steps to ban or strictly regulate ownership of mostly assault weapons. There are seven of them that have imposed different types and terms of regulation. The precise terms vary between states but generally apply to semi-automatic firearms that are self-loading and carry detachable magazines. These are similar weapons to the types used in shootings that have recently occurred. They are also responsible for approximately 85% of mass shooting fatalities.
A Losing Battle
With the rate of fatalities worsening, a lot of states even blocking and others rejecting gun control; the weapons industry thriving, with tons of more efficient firearms being churned out regularly; it’s not looking like enough is being done to address the problem. Is there really even close to enough regulation, restrictions and bans to make any significant difference?
Some U.S. States With Restrictions on Gun Use
The states that have instituted some forms of restrictions are as follows:
Though it has one of the most restrictive gun-control measures in the country it is not an outright ban or confiscation as many gun lobbyists claim. Rather it is a 10 day waiting period for all firearm purchases, transfers and private sales. This allows for background checks which must be conducted through a federal and state firearm licenced holder.
This is a licenced, open-carry state where a permit allows open or concealed carrying of handguns like pistols and revolvers anywhere in the state that is not specifically designated as a firearm restricted zone. The restricted weapons are the ones that are self-loading, with semi-automatic capabilities including copies and duplicates of such weapons that were in production prior to or on June 18, 2013.
This is also an open-carry state though licences are not required to own firearms. However, all guns in the state including those brought in from outside the state must be registered. By law, Hawaii is a licenced carry state but they are rarely issued.
Washington District of Columbia
First to introduce assault weapon restrictions as far back as 1932, with other restrictions coming later.
Maryland operates a “May Issue” policy at the state level. The law stipulates that an applicant must show good cause as to why they should be issued a permit and supply documentation to confirm reasons why the permit should be issued.
This law requires firearm owners to be licenced through their local police department or The Massachusetts State Police if no local licencing authority is available. A licence is required by state law for buying firearms and ammunition.
The state requires that you first get a firearms purchaser identification card (FPIC) if you are buying a rifle or shotgun, or a permit to get a handgun if that is what you are buying. You also require one of the licences or permit to carry or buy handgun ammunition.
The state does not require a licence to own or possess long guns but does require a permit to legally possess or own a pistol. Mostly, all firearms must comply with the NY SAFE act, which bans assault weapons except if they were owned before the ban.
A mild restriction that only requires proof of age and citizenship. This allows for anyone who is above 18 and is a citizen to possess or own any firearm.
The Nurture of Gun Culture in the US and Opposition to Gun Control
The opposition to gun control seems to be stronger than the support. It also appears to have been rooted much deeper in American culture and history. This seems to be partly responsible for the sentimental attachment to, and fierce opposition against guns and their ownership many of her citizens have. This belief, which has even been included in the American constitution, of the right to bear arms, is still held strongly. For some, no amount of gun/firearm violence will change that belief.
This after hundreds of years of change and development in a lot of spheres. Also after millions of lives lost to gun/firearm violence. Then an unprecedented situation of the number of firearms exceeding the number of people. In spite of this clearly showing that anyone can very easily get a gun, the opposition remains resolute.
Copycat Violent Behaviour
The influence that the USA, as well as other developed countries, have on the developing world is undeniable. The appeal of societies that seem to have it all and project their idealogy to the rest of the world is intense. This is especially stronger with the less privileged. These people that may not have access to a decent quality of life are prone to influences. These influences may be good or bad.
The Wild West
The gun-loving culture of particularly The United States has greatly influenced a lot of people. This is especially true with regard to young people and even children viewing firearms with admiration. This is mainly due to the popularity of films and particularly Hollywood films, many of which seem to glorify gun/firearm violence even in some children’s films.
Firearms Again And Again
As recently as 22nd March there was more gun/firearm violence with a mass shooting in Boulder Colorado in which 10 people were killed including a local police officer. This is a county where a recently enacted gun law had just been thrown out literally days before. Judge blocks Boulder’s ban on assault weapons.
The National Rifle Association (NRA)
The main and widely known organisation that openly opposes and even funds opposition to gun/firearms restrictions is The National Rifle Association (NRA). This powerful and influential body is at the forefront of gun advocacy. This is an organisation that was initially established in 1871. They were first established for the purpose of training hunters and marksmen on gun use and crucially, gun safety. Between that era and now they have been transformed into one of the most effective political lobbyist groups in American history. It’s no longer so much about use or safety anymore, but the right to bear them.
The group advances its agenda by elaborately deploying disinformation about gun/firearm violence and fear-mongering. They also systematically discredit any opposition so as to appear to always hold the higher moral ground. It has skillfully constructed a narrative that is based on gun rights propaganda. They push forward an impression of a society that is devoid of the rule of law and under constant threat of attack by an unknown enemy. Through their relentless disinformation, much of the country has been convinced of their narrative.
This group campaigns against all forms of gun control in The United States. The NRA argues that more guns make the country safer. It is one of the most powerful special interest lobby groups in the U.S. It has a substantial budget with which to influence members of Congress on gun policy. It is pertinent to note that gun rights groups have spent more than gun control groups in recent years despite rising gun/firearm violence.
Below is a statement made by the head of The NRA. It was made in response to the increasing clamour for more effective gun control legislation.
“Our Second Amendment is freedom’s most valuable, most cherished and most irreplaceable idea. History proves it. When you ignore the right of good people to own firearms to protect their freedom you become the enablers of future tyrants whose regimes will destroy millions and millions of defenceless lives.”
Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, National Rifle Association.
Though gun control is not strictly a partisan issue, it is clear that The Republican Party predominantly favours the 2nd Amendment and gun rights. The Democratic Party favours increased legislation that aims to institute better gun control.
Possible Solutions To Gun Violence
Gun/firearm violence, carnage and repercussions are dangers that are grim. They are obviously threatening not only the human way of life but also human existence as a whole. However, it is purely a man-made problem and will require a man-made solution.
Gun deaths in the U.S. have been steadily increasing over the years while vehicular deaths have been decreasing. Gun/firearm violence deaths surpassed car deaths since 2017.
At the rate it is going, gun violence could eventually surpass deaths from drugs and alcohol. It could eventually even surpass deaths from diseases. This has the highest global mortality rate.
Solutions by Amnesty International
Solutions to this issue need to be identified and sincere efforts made to implement them.
Amnesty International on their part have advocated for:
- Effective gun violence prevention laws.
- Interventions to stop gun/firearm violence.
- Strict regulation of firearms initiatives.
- Strategic violence reduction initiatives.
- Measures including but not limited to legislation on curbing the ease with which firearms are obtained, whether legally or not.
Solutions by Time Magazine
Time Magazine has also outlined a line of six corrective actions.
- Institution of similar criteria for acquiring a gun to that of acquiring a car.
- Passing gun laws that actually reduce gun/firearm violence.
- Doctors playing a part to help reduce gun/firearm violence.
- Investing in smart-gun technology.
- Eliminate funding restrictions on research into gun/firearm violence.
- End legal immunity for gun manufacturers.
The well-being of every human being is the responsibility of every human being. It is our collective duty to ensure freedom from the tragedy of gun/firearm violence. We must also try to heal the damage already done where possible.