The US is infamous for gun violence and mass shootings, a phenomenon that is especially shocking when it occurs at schools. According to police chiefs of 12 US cities, 2021 is heading towards becoming “the deadliest year for gun violence” in over 20 years (Rizzo). It is not customary for many other countries to have active-shooter drills at schools and kindergartens, and yet in the US it is commonplace, and for a reason. Supporters of gun freedom claim that Americans have the right to retain their right to bear arms to protect themselves from cases like this. On the other hand, supporters of gun regulations consider the ease with which one may obtain a gun to be the cause of the gun violence. In reality, there are various different factors that contribute to gun violence, including gun availability, poor mental health, and violent films and video games. This essay argues that it is the unique combination of these and other factors that make America as high on the mass shooting and gun violence rankings as it is, rather than gun availability alone.
Firstly, it is important to note that the US political system is incredibly polarized, and both sides, the Democrats and the Republicans, are known to point fingers instead of focusing on the problem at hand. While gun violence is a national problem, the parties often use it to undermine the opponent rather than attempt to work together in order to solve it. This means that although loud statements are made by both sides, no real difference is made – especially since the common people are constantly being pitted against each other instead of being encouraged to think.
Secondly, the gun availability that the US citizens enjoy is unmatched elsewhere in the world. Where most other countries require background verification, and often a mental health check, a license, and training courses, the US makes gun acquisition almost easy. In 16 states, no permits are required to carry permissible handguns, and out of 34 states that require an official permit, 26 issue these automatically to those qualified (Rizzo). Although this might differ from state to state, it is easy to cross the state-lines on land without ever having any documents or possessions checked. Furthermore, the guns in the US are not only easily acquired but are plenty. In 2017, there were 120.5 guns owned per 100 residents in the US, which is more than any other country in the world (Lopez 629). In a country where the right to bear arms is considered a constitutional right, this is not surprising statistics (Rizzo). Therefore, regardless of a person’s situation and background, these factors make it easy for one to acquire a gun in the US – or, at least, unmeasurably easier than in any other global state. Although owning a gun does not guarantee violence, having violent tendencies and having access to a firearm almost guarantees gun violence.
Finally, there is the question of mental health and exposure to violence in the media and in the surroundings. Over the past few years, especially during the global pandemic, the consideration of mental health has become a forefront issue in the country and worldwide for a reason. Popular shows such as “13 Reasons Why” and “Sex Education” focus on mental health, and other shows discuss mental health without making it central to the plot, such as “Black Mirror” and “Black-Ish.” However, there are also a variety of shows, films, and video games that not only display violence but often glamorize it, such as “The Originals,” “GTA V,” and “Counterstrike.” There are numerous examples of popular media that devalues human life, which is often blamed for violence in real life. With the decline in mental health, some people might feel absorbed in the fantasy worlds enough to project their actions onto real-life situations.
Some might argue that other countries have just as many issues that could but mostly do not lead to gun violence – such as mental health issues, access to the same violent media, and so on. Furthermore, many gun crimes are committed by those already considered criminals by the law, and yet it is the US gun laws that make it difficult to prosecute them (Williamson 29). Therefore, these people will argue that the only reason that America is different lies in the accessibility of firearms and the ease with which one is able to obtain them.
While this is a solid argument, it devalues the importance of the other factors in the matter. The sole fact of gun availability does not necessarily lead to violence – just like a person having hands does not mean they are likely to beat someone up. Although it is true that many other countries have access to the same media – films and video games, and so on – the culture differs. Furthermore, American media is often the only sort of media that an average American consumes, while people from outside the US are likely to be exposed to other cultures, at the very least their own.
To reiterate, there is a unique combination of factors that lead to the amount of gun violence that the US is infamous for, each one as important as the next. Therefore, in order to fight such statistics and decrease the deaths related to firearms, be they due to mass shootings, suicides, or other gun-related issues, all factors must be addressed. According to some studies, preemprive firearm laws might be effective for situations where both gun control or gun freedom are supported (Pomeranz et al.). There is a toxic culture that breeds violence, physical and mental, in the US and worldwide, which needs to be addressed from different viewpoints.
Lopez, German. “Guns Are the Problem.” Vox, 2019.
Pomeranz, Jennifer L. et al. “State Gun-Control, Gun-Rights, and Preemptive Firearm-Related Laws Across 50 US States for 2009-2018.”
Rizzo, Salvador. “The claim that crime falls when states relax gun-control laws.” Washington Post, 2021, p. NA. Gale OneFile: Business, Web.
Williamson, Kevin D. “Fun Control For Criminals.” National Review, 2021. 28-29.