Americans are armed to the teeth and dangerous

In 2020 and 2021, an estimated 43 million guns were sold in the country



AP
AP

By Chidanand Rajghatta

Published: Wed 23 Nov 2022, 8:33 PM

Last updated: Wed 23 Nov 2022, 9:27 PM

America is at war - with itself. It is now losing more people to mass shootings within the country than it loses in wars abroad by a long distance. Indeed, it is on track to lose more people to gun violence - including suicides - in a year than it lost during the entirety of the Vietnam war lasting nearly two decades - over 59,000.

In 2020, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the US, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Just how common is gun violence in America? As a guest on a podcast on mass shootings recorded on Tuesday following the carnage in Colorado, I hazarded there would almost certainly be another incident before the podcast was aired. Sure enough, America woke up on Wednesday to another grisly massacre, this time at a Walmart in Virginia where a store manager reportedly lost his head and mowed down staff and customers. It was Virginia's second butchery in two weeks in carnage-a-day America after a gunman killed three people and injured two others on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville the previous week.

No place is safe in the killing fields of America -- not stores, not schools, not playgrounds, not prayer halls, not university and college campuses not bars and restaurants. Even the halls of Congress are not safe going by the January 6 insurrection. In fact, America's roads and vehicles are now safer than indoor spaces -- guns now kill more people than road accidents.

If such massacres were happening in any other country, you could be sure there would have been adverse travel advisories, calls for human rights inquiries, threats of sanctions etc. The irony of America and much of the west unloading on Qatar during the World Cup should not be missed. The United States is due to co-host the 2024 T20 cricket world cup and the 2026 FIFA world cup. Should the rest of the world note its record with regards to gun violence and safety?

But America marches to its own morbid drumbeat, so you can rest assured there will be the usual expressions of "thoughts and prayers" from all concerned before everyone goes back to their routines for a few hours before the next carnage. In fact, the cartoon- and meme-world suggests that America's leaders even have a proforma condemnatory statement where all they have to do is fill in the city and town and the number of casualties and fatalities to express their horror -- and helplessness.

After all, when a country's leadership that is wedded to "gun rights" remains unmoved by the butchery of children in school shootings -- from Newtown, Connecticut to Uvalde, Texas -- you can expect it to shrug off other casualties. There have now been over 900 shootings on school grounds since the massacre of six- and seven-year-olds at the Sandy Hook elementary a decade ago. If you are parents of school children, the daily alarms that come from all this can be terrifying. In addition to fire drills, American schools now conduct active-shooter drills where children are taught to cower beneath their desks and stay quiet in simulated attacks.

Yet America is veering around to more gun RIGHTS, not gun CONTROL or reform. According to a 2021 Gallup poll, only 52 percent of Americans believed that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made stricter, DOWN from 67 percent in 2018. In fact, given the partisan bickering on the issue, some Republican states have doubled down on gun rights. Texas has now embraced “permitless carry” laws, which allow people to carry guns around in public with no permit or training. In fact, such is the swagger and defiance of the gun-loving state that the National Rifle Association, the top gun advocacy group in America, held its annual conference in May in the same week as the Uvalde carnage without any remorse. In attendance -- and a clear sign of the partisan dysfunction in America -- the state's Republican Senator Ted Cruz and former President Donald Trump.

Where does all this end? The short and sad answer is more gun violence and death. There is simply no way out of this death spiral given the political gridlock in Washington and across America. Piecemeal legislation and executive fiat of the kind that President Joe Biden has managed just doesn't cut it. The United States now has the highest level of gun ownership in the world (war-torn Yemen ranks second). And more are being added every year. In 2020 and 2021, an estimated 43 million guns were sold in America. It all boils down to the profound and deepening distrust between the two political forces arrayed against each other in America, the bridging of which is the only way to enact meaningful gun reform. And there is no sign that mistrust will end anytime soon.

- The writer is a senior journalist based in Washington


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