There have been thousands of cases of unprovoked firearm attacks in the United States over the past ten years and countless more prior to that. Senseless shootings at schools, places of worship, shopping malls, workplaces and hospitals. And there has been an endless flow of resentment, rancor and suffering expressed on television, radio and print. There is no lack of frustration by the aggrieved, by victims, law enforcement, prosecutors and by politicians. There is also no end to the rhetorical extolment of policies by both the Republican and Democrats to appear to be sufficiently concerned to demonstrate a willingness to curb the suffering, to pass what by American standards are perceived to be reasonable limitations to unrestricted access to firearms.
In reality, laws are being relaxed to make it easier to carry a firearm, without having to go through background checks, applying for a permit or having any training in the safe operation and use of firearms. The rationale being applied to this counterintuitive intelligence—that more citizens being armed with firearms will boost public safety and deter attackers.
Since February, five states have passed new or expanded “permitless-carry” laws. Twenty years ago, only Vermont allowed the carrying of firearms without a permit. By the end of 2021, twenty states are expected to allow the same. Some states require that firearms be concealed, while others require that they be carried in plain view. Further, many states have announced their intention to become “Second amendment sanctuaries” by refusing to comply with any new federal gun laws. Some states are even considering legislative acts that would prohibit private businesses, like hotels, from banning guests from bringing firearms to their rooms.1
In the state of Florida the so called ‘stand your ground law’ (776.013 Home protection; use or threatened use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm) empowers citizens to legally use deadly force in a number of circumstances, which by most reasonable standards fall far short of a reasonable expectation of the proportionate use of force. 2
According to the database maintained by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which tracks lives lost in every country, in every year, by every possible cause of death, the United States stands out for its high levels of gun violence: the highest rate among 64 high-income countries and territories. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, two U.S. territories, ranked first and third on that list. The Institute also notes that firearm injuries tend to be more frequent in places where people have easy access to firearms.3
Worldwide, it was estimated that 251,000 people died from firearm injuries in 2016, with six countries (Brazil, United States, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Guatemala) accounting for 50.5 per cent of those deaths.4
Between 2006 and 2019, 133,020 U.S. citizens were killed by firearms; compare that to 58,220 American soldiers killed in Vietnam between 1964-1975.5
There were 600 mass shootings in the United States in 2020—323 in 2021 alone (Current to May 26).
As far as gun sales—there were approximately 10 million firearms sold in 2010, 15 million in 2011, 20 million in 2013 and 25 million in 2016. This year firearms sales in January of 2021 are up by 4,137,480, an increase of 60 per cent over the previous year; this data also includes 5 million first-time owners.
The United States also has some of the world’s most dangerous cities in terms of murder rates per 100,000 (2020)—St. Louis at thirteenth (65.8), Baltimore at twenty-first (55.5), New Orleans at forty-first (40.1) and Detroit at forty-second (39.7)—ranked only amongst the worst cities in Brazil, Mexico, Jamaica, South Africa, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela.6 By comparison, Canada had its highest murder rate (per 100 thousand) of 2.14 in 2019, 2.06 in 2015 and 1.45 in 2013. Canada’s murder rate in 2019 was 1.8.7
If all that isn’t enough, top government officials in the United States have now advocated for the use of firearms as a right to rebellion against the government.
On January 6, 2021, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani called for “trial by combat” while addressing a mob of pro-Trump supporters, just hours before hundreds of them violently stormed the Capitol on Wednesday.8
During a rally in Georgia, Congressman Matt Gaetz told the cheering crowd that “we have an obligation” to take up arms against Silicon Valley companies that are “suppressing” right-wing voices on their platforms. Gaetz told the cheering crowd that the Second Amendment “is not about hunting, it’s not about recreation, it’s not about sports”; it’s there for ensuring citizens have “the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government of the United States, if that becomes necessary”.9
At the same time there has been a 58.2 per cent increase in gun purchases by black men and women during the first half of 2020.10 According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, in 2003, only 13 per cent of women identified as gun owners, by 2020 that number was nearly 25 per cent. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 25 per cent of those female gun owners reported self-protection as the main reason for owning a gun, while 70 per cent reported gun ownership as being essential for their personal freedom.11
Phillip Smith, founder and president of the National African American Gun Association, notes—“We are arming ourselves for self-defense….We are not arming ourselves to go out and attack. We just want to live our lives peacefully with our families and loved ones and we just don’t want to be attacked.”
It would appear that everyone is preparing to defend themselves from someone else. And everyone is willing to tolerate the murders, accidental deaths, misuse of firearms and mass shootings that have become a routine across the United States. The proportionality of the response to violence against its citizens is illogical. America will not tolerate foreign violence against its citizens and will go to any extreme and endure any cost to punish those who attack its citizens; and yet it fails to protect itself against its own violence, against its own illogical assertions of constitutional interpretations, its own sacred clinging to fundamentalist interpretations of a noble document—its Constitution.
Anil Anand is a research associate at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
Photo by Chip Vincent on Unsplash.
- “The firearms free-for all” The Economist, May8-14, 2021 (P.37)
- The 2020 Florida Statutes. See: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0776/Sections/0776.013.html
- “On gun violence, the United States is an outlier”, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, March 25, 2021. See: http://www.healthdata.org/acting-data/gun-violence-united-states-outlier
- Naghavi, Mohsen, Laurie B. Marczak, Michael Kutz, Katya Anne Shackelford, Megha Arora, Molly Miller-Petrie, Miloud Taki Eddine Aichour et al. “Global mortality from firearms, 1990-2016.” Jama 320, no. 8 (2018): 792-814. See: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2698492
- McIntyre, A. Douglas. “Guns in America: Nearly 40 million guns were purchased legally in 2020 and another 4.1 million bought in January, USA Today. See: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2021/02/10/this-is-how-many-guns-were-sold-in-all-50-states/43371461/
- Ranking of the most dangerous cities in the world in 2020, by murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants. See: https://www.statista.com/statistics/243797/ranking-of-the-most-dangerous-cities-in-the-world-by-murder-rate-per-capita/
- Homicide rate in Canada from 1994 to 2019 (per 100,000 residents). See: https://www.statista.com/statistics/433674/homicide-rate-in-canada/
- Lynch, Sarah N.“Trump, Giuliani accused in lawsuit of conspiring to incite Capitol riot”, Reuters, February 16, 2021. See: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-lawsuit-idUSKBN2AG1WD
- Chamberlain, Samuel. “Gaetz: Second Amendment about waging ‘armed rebellion’ if necessary”, New York Post, May 27, 2021. See: https://nypost.com/2021/05/27/gaetz-second-amendment-about-waging-armed-rebellion-if-necessary/
- Smith, Aaron. “Black Americans Have Been Buying More Guns During The Pandemic”, Forbes, April 9, 2021. See: https://www.forbes.com/sites/aaronsmith/2021/04/09/black-americans-have-been-buying-more-guns-during-the-pandemic/?sh=14cfe2c3281e
- Keane, Larry. “Diversity in Gun Ownership Nothing New to Firearm Industry”, National Shooting Sports Foundation, July 17, 2020. See: https://www.nssf.org/articles/diversity-in-gun-ownership-nothing-new-to-firearm-industry/?hilite=%27black%27%2C%27american%27%2C%27gun%27%2C%27ownership%27