Gun Violence Tramples Human Rights in the U.S.

2019-09-09 16:01:20 Beijing Review 2019年36期

The spate of deadly mass shootings in the United States have caused concern both domestically and in the international community. According to a report by the China Society for Human Rights Studies, a member of the United Nations Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations, the rampant gun violence reflects the profound crisis in the U.S. political and social systems and highlights the U.S. hypocrisy on human rights. An abridged version of the report follows:

The United States has the largest number of privately owned guns in the world, and this number is increasing. It has already exceeded the number of residents. While concerns about the threat of violence leads many to buy guns for self-protection, the proliferation of firearms has increasingly become an important agent of violent crime with frequent shootings and an alarming number of casualties.

Gun proliferation inevitably leads to violence. The U.S. has the most gun violence in the world. In 2018, there were over 57,000 incidents, killing more than 14,000 people and injuring over 28,000.

According to statistics, shootings are the second leading cause of death in the U.S. after traffi c accidents. The U.S. population accounts for only 5 percent of the worlds population, but is responsible for 31 percent of mass shootings globally, including in crowded public places such as cinemas and schools.

Institutional reasons for gun proliferation

Gun violence has become a protracted problem due to reasons directly related to the U.S. social and political systems.

The rigid constitutional provisions make it impossible to achieve a comprehensive ban on guns. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, “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.”

The U.S. gained independence from British colonial rule by waging the War of Independence. It is precisely because most people in the 13 states of North America owned guns that they were able to fight against the British. This historical experience has led people in the U.S. to believe that gun ownership is a vital right and has a major impact on the countrys politics.

Party politics hinders gun control efforts. With no hope of banning privately owned guns, the U.S. can only restrict gun sales. However, the implementation of constraints faces many obstacles. With increasing polarization in U.S. politics, the rift between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party has deepened. During the Barack Obama administration, the Democrats in the Senate proposed a gun control amendment which would require background checks on buyers, including those at gun shows and online. Though the amendment was supported by 90 percent of citizens, it was rejected by the Senate in 2013.

With its gun control bills repeatedly killed by Congress, in January 2016, the Obama administration began to bypass Congress and try to control fi rearms by issuing administrative orders. The orders prohibited the mentally ill from owning guns, stipulated that gun dealers need to be certified and strengthened background checks on prospective buyers. However, when a Republican government came to power, these measures were scrapped.

The current Republican administration supports private gun ownership. In 2018, Vice President Mike Pence said at the annual meeting of the National Rifl e Association (NRA), the most influential lobbying organization in the U.S., “The president and I both have a clear conscience to support the Second Amendment. The current administration will not violate the peoples right to own and carry weapons.”

Hence the prospects for the U.S. to resolve the problem of gun proliferation are very slim and the incidents of gun violence and shooting casualties may continue to increase.

The biggest resistance to gun control efforts comes from the interest groups. While the legal factor just scratches the surface, the real reason for the resistance to gun control is that the production, sale and use of guns have formed a huge industrial chain. According to a report by NBC in 2015, the gun and ammunition manufacturing industry earned a collective annual revenue of approximately $13.5 billion; guns and ammunition stores had an average annual income of $3.1 billion, and their actual profits reached $478.4 million. The gun industry paid$2 billion in taxes and provided 263,000 fulltime jobs. There are 100,000 offi cially registered retailers selling firearms. The total economic value of the U.S. gun and ammunition industry is estimated to be $42.9 billion.

The associations that oppose gun control wield great influence. The interest groups include 12 national organizations, with the NRA in the forefront. These groups have made substantial donations to U.S. presidential elections and congressional elections. They donated$113 million through the Political Action Committee from 2010 to 2018 alone.

The NRA has 5 million members, including powerful gun manufacturers and distributors. To oppose gun control, it conducts specific activities to advocate gun ownership, oppose gun control and make political donations. The NRA has an annual operating expense of $250 million and more during election years.

According to CNN, 307 of the 535 senators and members of the House of Representatives have either obtained campaign funds directly from the association and its affi liates, or benefited from the associations advertising campaigns.

The interest groups represented by the NRA have succeeded in killing off almost all gun control bills and further relaxing gun control in the United States.

Gun proliferation is closely related to the excessive use of guns by police. Their excessive use of guns has caused a large number of casualties when dealing with people suspected of carrying weapons. In 2017, police shot and killed 987 people, many of whom were innocent. But they are rarely investigated for criminal responsibility. Every year, about 1,000 civilians are shot by the police and at least 400 of them die. The U.S. political system has failed to resolve the contradiction between individual liberty and public security.

Gun proliferation is causing serious social problems

In addition to causing a large number of casualties, the proliferation of guns and gun violence has bred more violence and crimes, greatly reducing the sense of security in U.S. society.

It has led to a large number of murders. The easy access to guns leads to a high possibility of using them in confl ict. Petty quarrels as well as crimes such as robbery and theft may turn into murder if guns are carried. When drugs enter the scene, it can breed more violent crimes. Organized crimes by gangs also cause greater harm when employing guns. Given the widespread private gun ownership in U.S. society, it is inevitable that a large number of guns will be sold illegally and owned without registration, which increases the diffi culty in gun control. According to the Harvard Injury Control Research Centers study of multinational conditions, there is a positive correlation between privately owned guns and murders.

It has led to frequent school shootings. No country suffers as many campus shootings as the United States. As the campuses are densely populated public places, it is easy to cause heavy casualties in school shootings. The large number of young people on campus cannot defend themselves or respond to unexpected situations. The experience of shooting incidents can cause long-term harm to young survivors, leading to problems such as poor academic performance, social disabilities, depression, anxiety, lack of sleep and drug abuse. Their families are affected as well. Therefore, the social impact of school shootings is extensive.

Due to frequent school shootings, teachers and students carrying guns in school is an emerging trend. Some states have even enacted laws requiring teachers to be armed.

Gun violence has seriously undermined the sense of security in the U.S. One argument for supporting individual gun ownership is that guns can protect personal safety. But the paradox is that if everyone has a gun, he or she will become more insecure. Due to the massive shooting incidents and widespread gun violence, the United States has become an extremely insecure country. People live in fear and are forced to rely on guns to protect themselves. Many state laws allow citizens to shoot in the event of a threat, even if they can escape the threat without the use of weapons.

The United States has fallen into a vicious circle. On the one hand, the increasing proliferation of guns has brought more security risks and increased the number of vicious crimes. On the other hand, every time a shooting incident occurs, more U.S. people will buy guns out of safety concerns and the need for self-defense.

On the issue of gun control, the United States has driven into a dead end. The demands of society cannot change the legislation and decisions on the gun issue, and U.S. democracy is ineffective, as it has been undermined by political polarization. Both the leading political parties have failed to respond to the reality of U.S. society which is in danger of gun violence, with human rights trampled every moment.