Guns in the United States, stupid, is a matter of culture
by María Teresa Romero
Any electoral event and act of violence in the United States is conducive to incite the eternal debate on possession and control of weapons, in a society where there are more weapons than individuals according to the US Congress. During the almost eight years that Barack Obama has been in office, close to 80 million guns have been sold, as per Michigan Open Carry estimates. The current election campaign between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, along with the worst mass shooting in US history at a gay bar in Orlando, Florida, with a dead toll of 50 people, have made the controversy one of the key issues covered by news media.
However, in today’s globalized world, any event or terrorist attack, in particular from Islamic terrorism, gives rise to the debate about gun control. The Second Constitutional Amendment of the United States and its bill of rights, passed on November 3rd, 1971 protects the right to bear arms. No matter if the mass violence event happened outside the national borders, politicians and citizens connect it with what happens and could happen in their country if there were more or fewer guns in their hands.
Members of US Congress and the Executive Brand officials have agreed on several occasions to improve the Federal Firearms Law of 1934. Also, there has been several reforms in State laws on this issue. Even, in January 2016 President Obama announced a series of executive actions to prevent handgun violence, in response to the inaction of a Republican-controlled Congress. However, the sacrosanct second amendment is still in force, even more after 2010, when the Supreme Court of the United States established that no State or local law could restrict the right to possess or carry a gun.
This situation – unfortunately – is unlikely to change. On the contrary, it is likely the United States will continue being the No. 1 in the list of countries with the highest rate of private firearms.
This will be true not only because US politicians, especially Republicans, don’t want change – As argued by the “anti-political” trend with force in that nation – But because violence and weapons have been, are and will be an essential part of the American culture and identity, although support for guns is not widespread throughout the country.
The first thing to understand is that weapons possession is connected with the individual’s right to property and freedom. These rights are rooted in American history and their idiosyncrasy as far ago as the first English settlers, before their independence. That’s why this fundamental constitutional right, – despite the fact that the time of “cowboys” and “Wild West” is over – continues with the same vigor than before. So, beyond the need for self-defense, guns possession means for U.S. citizens feeling part of the historical tradition of their nation, inspiring personal pride as a patriotic symbol.
But guns are also linked to endemic, racial and all kind of violence suffered by the United States since independence, particularly at the South and West of the country. Indeed, the rate of violent deaths among Americans is more than the Europeans. It is the most violent Western country in the world. According to figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the average is about five violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in the United States.
The worst thing is that the industry of mass communication, headed by television, has exploited these cultural traits to the maximum. Also, this country’s powerful arms industry has done its part, such as the Sturm Ruger & Company and the Smith & Wesson. They have one of the largest Lobbyist groups in the U.S.: The National Rifle Association (NRA) with an annual profit of 10 billion dollars.
Who can deal with that?