On the Problem of Guns, America’s Present is Hindered by its Past


“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times”  – as President Obama stressed the frequency of mass gun violence in the United States following the murder of nine people in Charleston last month, he seemed dispirited. With what one would assume to be a reluctantly passive tone, the American population watched their leader inform them once again of a shooting that involved multiple victims.

Who can really blame him for being so disheartened? By most counts Obama has had to make a statement about a shooting attack on over a dozen separate occasions throughout his presidency.

Other advanced states have on numerous occasions expected America as a country to recognise its excess of gun rights. When 20 children and 6 adults were shot by a lone gunman in an elementary school in Connecticut in 2012, Obama proposed a stream of gun control measures as many believed were necessary. These failed, in the majority, as senators were coerced by organisations like the National Rifle Association; a controlling lobbying group with a firm grasp on Congress. It should be emphasised that this is not solely a mass shooting problem, but a gun problem. This is reflected in the fact that there were over 50,000 incidents of gun violence last year, with over 12,500 Americans shot dead.

Guns are a significant weakness in the makeup of the United States. The nation’s Second Amendment states that people have the ‘right’ to ‘keep and bear Arms’ and so the prevalence of guns in US society today is due to its very constitution. However, the right to a gun in the era of the musket is very different to the right to a gun in the age of assault weapons suited for warfare and local supermarkets that stock a range of weaponry available to anyone. Put frankly, a constitutional freedom to allow the populace of a fresh-faced republic to protect themselves from the return of a British colonial force that still exists today enabled a young white supremacist to carry out a racially-motivated attack with a weapon obtained legally.

The US, as a nation, has its hands tied behind its back by its very foundations. One of its most prominent pillars is preventing it from moving forward and becoming an even more powerful and contemporary country. While Americans pride themselves on living in a land of liberty in which your very own dream can thrive, when it comes to governing a persisting armed violence question, it is left up to its founders who have been dead for over two centuries. A nation that must surely feel powerless when it comes to self-improvement as their very own leader, while continuing to promote his hope for change, appears defeated by corrupted politics. Undoubtedly, much like the gun violence itself, this stagnation must be hugely harmful for a country and its population.

America is also damaged as an international example of great influence by the issue of armed violence and its incapability to prevent it. When each mass shooting or any other instance of gun violence becomes global news, America’s image as a mighty force is slowly eroded. A country where a two-year-old boy can fatally shoot himself by accident with his father’s handgun in the January of this year illustrates that a government needs to find a way to fix a fundamental flaw. The nation’s politically powerful must realise that a constitution and its laws should be to the advantage of the living and not the dead; realise that the cost of financial expense and political success does not outweigh the benefit of saving the lives of their population from gun violence; realise that it may take courage and a thick skin to change a right in the constitution, but that it will be worth it when it makes America a safer country. The US does no longer have to tolerate mass shootings and armed violence against its civilians.

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Discussion2 Comments

  1. avatar

    Absolutely, Henry! Great article. The modern USA is very different from the country in the late eighteenth century. The idea that the right to have firearms is a ‘natural right’ is no longer tenable. But if the NRA were not convinced by the horrors of the shooting at the school at Sandy Hook, then what would it take to make them understand that the possession of guns endangers everyone, including the people who possess them.

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