America’s Gun Culture: Can They Do Better?

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the Constitution, once stated that there is a difference between democracy and freedom: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. So, liberty or freedom is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote. The quote illustrates the importance of weapons in American history. However, regarding America’s gun culture, beyond everything, can they do better?

The Second Amendment Protects the Gun Culture

The experience of the American War of Independence against the British was undoubtedly important. And this is when the United States enshrined the right to bear arms and the Second Amendment happened. In other words, for many Americans, guns are inextricably linked to freedom. That is probably why it is so difficult to bring about change, even after mass shootings. And no doubt we have just witnessed a school massacre in Texas killing 19 children and two adults.

America’s gun issue remains a serious matter. However, School shootings have unfortunately become a common phenomenon in the United States. It is just about 5 months passed this year and we have so far seen 27 school shootings. In the last four years, the country has had over 100 cases like this. It is not without reason that President Joe Biden has described the problems as an epidemic.

Some people are praying outside of the Robb Elementary school, Texas after the shooting
Some people are praying outside of the Robb Elementary school, Texas after the shooting. Photography: Ivan Pierre Aguirre (The New York Times)

What is Responsible for the Crime?

Though America’s gun culture falls into the simple explanation. However, there are many other reasons that are hard to explain. Anyway, let me put into three main reasons for the massacres in an easy way:

1. The Availability of Automatic Weapons

Admittedly, there are different laws in different states, but generally, the supply of weapons is large in the United States. If you have not been convicted of criminal acts, then there are few or no obstacles to acquiring weapons. But there are ample weapons in circulation means that there is also access to weapons for criminals. And this part of America’s gun culture is easier to understand.

2. Mental Health

It may seem that the cause of such massacres is mental problems. Normal people do not do that. The United States has a major challenge related to the nation’s mental health. The White House has described the situation as a crisis. The combination of mental health crisis and access to weapons is anything but good.

3. Normalization of School Massacres

The fact that such incidents have become common may have helped to normalize school massacres. Mentally disturbed people see what attention such shooting incidents get. In addition, they have the opportunity to study others in similar situations. So, it makes them a subject of committing such heinous crimes in a more normalized fashion.

People are waiting after the Texas school shooting outside the school
Photograph by Marco Bello / Reuters

Failed Attempts to Limit the Supply of Weapons

When something becomes part of your culture, it is hard to control and the gun issue has become America’s gun culture long ago. There is no shortage of attempts to limit the supply of weapons, especially automatic weapons. In the 1990s, Congress passed a ban on automatic weapons, which were defined as “assault weapons”. But the ban had to be renewed after ten years – and it was not done. Following the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut in 2012, President Obama appointed Joe Biden to lead the work to stop the violence.

Among the proposals for reforms were expanded background checks, a ban on automatic weapons (semi-automatic rifles), measures to strengthen security and preparedness at schools, and expanded access to mental health care. Some agreement was reached on the last two points, but the attempt to limit the supply of weapons met with great resistance and did not get through in Congress.

Attached Emotions and Arguments in The Arms Debate

The arms debate in the United States is in itself very inflamed and arouses strong emotions. In the current situation of strong party-political polarization, it has become even more difficult to reach a compromise. The fact that many members of Congress are also challenged in the primary election. And later congressional election – makes it even riskier for Republicans to challenge conservative orthodoxy related to the right to bear arms.

Surveys show that a large majority of conservatives are more concerned with the freedom to bear arms than with the introduction of regulations.

At the same time, it is important to remember that there are also arguments for liberal gun laws. The right to bear arms gives citizens the opportunity to defend themselves in the face of criminals. Here America’s gun culture is highly twisted. Because strict firearms laws can prevent law-abiding citizens to bear arms, only criminals have access to firearms which can also be fatal.

The majority in the American Society believes that in some cases, the only thing that can stop an “evil” person is a good person with a weapon. Such arguments are probably unfamiliar in most of the world, nevertheless, they are valid objections.

Another, the more formalistic argument is related to the aforementioned constitutional amendment. It explicitly guarantees citizens of the United States the right to carry arms. 

Gun and the second amendment

A Constitutional Right Ruled by Supreme Court

Admittedly, the constitutional amendment emphasizes that the justification for the right is linked to the regulated militia and it is the right to citizens to bear arms. But that constitutional amendment was ruled by the Supreme Court with a narrow majority (5–4). And no matter what it should be understood also, as an individual, you have the right to carry weapons regardless of affiliation.

The fact that the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Supreme Court makes it extremely challenging for the opponents of America’s gun culture.

But even if Americans have the right to bear arms, that does not mean that there are no opportunities for sensible regulation. Few, if any, Republicans would argue that everyone should have the right to buy automatic weapons. In other words, it could be an opening to find sensible compromises that involve the right to reasonable self-defense, without necessarily having access to effective automatic weapons.

The only thing we know for sure is that if nothing is done, there will be more school massacres. And that’s not something the United States should accept or live with. So, the opinion is that the United States can do better than what they are doing. Moreover, they should focus more on their domestic problems than their hooliganism around the world.

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