The escalating menace of mass killings and gun culture in the US
Editor's Note: The writer is a freelance columnist on international affairs based in Karachi, Pakistan. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of Gwadar Pro.
The United States saw a record of 28 mass killings in the first half of 2023, reported The Associated Press on July 14. With a dreadful 28 mass killings recorded across the country, all chillingly linked to the use of firearms, the first half of 2023 has witnessed an unrelenting torrent of bloodshed.
These harrowing statistics cast a disconcerting light on the self-proclaimed champion of freedom, human rights, progress and liberty. The US stands at crossroads where the clash of principles and politics intertwined in a dance of death. Will the United States find the solution to escape this labyrinth of violence? Only time will tell, but the shadows of the past, and the tragedy of the present, cast long and ominous silhouettes over the uncertain landscape that lies ahead.
“Six months. 181 days. 28 mass killings. 140 victims,” is how TIME magazine described the quantum of this horrifying reality in a recent article on the mass killings in the US in the first half of 2023. Technically speaking, a mass killing is generally defined as an event in which four or more individuals, excluding the perpetrator, are killed within a 24-hour timeframe. In the United States, these mass killings – with the exception of one case - are directly linked to firearms. Since 2006, a joint database maintained by the Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University has monitored incidents of large-scale violence in the US. In 2023, this database marked a grimmest milestone by surpassing the prior record of 27 mass killings, a record that was established in the second half of 2022.
This means that, for the consecutive 12 months, the US has witnessed the highest ever incidents of mass killings. This data reflects a continuation of the trend observed in previous years. In 2021, a staggering 48,830 lives were claimed by gun-related injuries in the US, marking an alarming 8% surge from the previous year, itself a record-breaking period for firearm deaths. Tragically, over 20,000 deaths were homicides, as per CDC. Shockingly, the data reveals that more than 50 individuals met a fatal fate each day due to firearms, a disproportionally higher rate than in countries like Canada, Australia and England. The statistics indicate that the gun culture stands as the primary root cause behind the persistent wave of mass killings in the United States.
The clash of ideologies has woven a complex web of division in the US. The proponents of gun control encourage constitutional reforms to stem the tide of violence, but they confront a formidable opposition form the Republicans and the National Rifle Association who seriously defend their right to bear arms with an almost religious fervor, invoking the infamous Second Amendment as a shield. The result is an impasse that breeds tragedy on daily basis. The blood-soaked months of 2023 bear witness to the scars of this enduring conflict, underscoring a society grappling with its own inherent contradictions.
Recent data from the US also reveals a substantial increase in gun ownership in recent years. A study published in February in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported an increase of 7.5 million new gun owners from January 2019 to April 2021, exposing 11 million people, including 5 million children, to firearms at home.
After each incident of mass shooting in America, a repetitive political drama is witnessed. The deep-rooted divide within the US political theater is starkly evident. Democrats clamor for fresh gun-control initiatives, advocating for measures like an assault-style weapons ban, while highlighting the country's menacingly high gun violence rates among industrialized countries. Republicans, on the other hand, staunchly defend the Second Amendment and resist any new gun-control legislation, arguing that it would prove futile in stopping the mass killings. Even in the event of a shift in the political calculus within Congress or among states averse to gun-control measures, the conservative judiciary poses formidable and mounting obstacles. The Supreme Court’s resistance presents a substantial hurdle to any attempts at enacting gun-control legislation. The induction of a big group of conservative judges by former President Trump has made it practically problematic for any attempt aimed at bringing about reforms to curb the menace of mass killings in the US - perpetuating a sense of fear and vulnerability among the public.