In the cultural zeitgeist that is America, one topic has always sparked heated debate: guns. Some people love them, other people really love them, and others can’t stand the idea of them. Regardless of your feelings and for better or worse, guns are a way of life in the United States. However, there are those who believe that line of thinking has to change.

America’s Attachment to Guns

All of this begs the question, why are so many Americans so attached to their firearms? According to a 2021 Gallup Poll, a high percentage of gun owners have cited self-defense as their primary reason, seemingly indicating that a great deal of Americans have a deep set fear of potential danger.

Source: Wikimedia/Thayne Tuason

Actual circumstances in which gun owners have been forced to use their firearms in self-defense are extremely few and far between, though. Recent reports suggest that less than 3 percent of gun owners find themselves in situations in which they have had to resort to the use of a firearm in order to protect themselves.

Media Pushing a Narrative

When it comes to guns, many media outlets tend to drive the narrative of the need for reform. This is not the case with Fox News. Of all the media outlets, Fox News has played a crucial role pushing a narrative which perpetuates a constant sense of peril, while also sowing the seeds of distrust in our institutions.

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Their constant peddling of propagandist alarmism has given their viewers a very distorted sense of reality, contributing to many of them feeling paranoid. And, in some rare cases, even willing to take up arms against imagined enemies. This dangerous rhetoric from Fox News has done little to calm the already existing tensions within the country, and one could argue that it’s made it worse. 

Tragic Accidents Involving Guns

This alarmist fear has led to some tragic accidents involving guns over the years. Data has shown that a significant portion of gun violence is accidental, particularly when it comes to guns in the home. 

Source: Flickr/dinomite

For gun violence that takes place out in public, innocent individuals have been caught in the crossfire of gun owners who believe that they’re doing good. Indeed, constant tension causes gun owners to see other individuals as threats, when they don’t pose any potential harm at all. 

April 13, 2023

Further highlighting this growing issue perpetuated by Fox News and other media outlets such as Newsmax and the OAN Network, are the events that unfolded on April 13th of 2023 in Kansas City, MO.

Source: Wikimedia/Noah Wulf

Ralph Yarl, a 16 year old African American boy, mistakenly approached the home of 84-year old Andrew Daniel Lester, believing it to be the place where he was supposed to pick up his twin brothers. The second he rang the doorbell, Lester immediately opened fire on the boy, shooting him twice. The incident left him with arm and head injuries, the latter of which resulted in traumatic brain damage. 

April 15, 2023

Unfortunately, the case of Ralph Yarl isn’t the only incident like this. Just two days after the boy’s shooting, a young man in upstate New York made the fatal mistake of accidentally entering the driveway of an unfamiliar residence. Realizing he had made a mistake, he and the other four passengers in his car immediately backed out, but it was too late.

Source: Wikimedia/Mitch Barrie

As the group was pulling out of the driveway, the homeowner, Kevin D. Monahan, opened fire on the group using a 20-gauge shotgun, killing the driver’s girlfriend, 20 year old Kaylin Gillis. All because of an honest mistake.

And in North Carolina

That same month, another horrifying incident would take place. This time in North Carolina, where a group of children were playing basketball in the street of their neighborhood, and accidentally tossed their ball into the yard of Robert Louis Singletray.

Source: Wikimedia/Ank Kumar

According to neighbors and other witnesses, when the children and parents went to retrieve the ball, Singleton was irate. He retrieved a handgun, and began to indiscriminately open fire on all individuals present. This resulted in minor injuries for some, but serious injuries for a 6 year old girl and her father.

April 18, 2023

That same month, another incident occurred, this time in Texas. On April 18, 2023, two competitive cheerleaders, Payton Washington and Heather Roth, were both shot by Pedro Rodriguez, Jr. after mistakenly entering his vehicle, believing it was theirs.

Source: Flickr/glasgows

Fortunately, both cheerleaders survived the attack, but the issue of people attacking those who mean them no harm is ongoing. These horrifying acts of senseless gun violence, all because of mistakes anyone could make, continue to pose a pressing threat not just to our society, but our mental well-being.

Very Few Americans Own Guns

What’s even more concerning about all of these different incidents of gun violence is the fact that only 3% of Americans own half of all guns. The prevalence of gun violence in American society would imply that many more people owned the weapons, but in reality it’s a very small number.

Source: Wikimedia/United States Senate – Office of Dan Sullivan

Of those three percent, though, there’s an outrageous number of guns. There are currently more than 400 million guns in circulation in the United States, with some ten million Americans currently owning 30 or more guns, each. 

The Second Amendment Rears Its Head

Now, regarding gun laws in the United States, there’s no question that it is an issue plagued by endless debate and controversy. Many are either for or against guns, leaving little room for middle ground in the realm of politics or social setting. 

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This all goes back to the Second Amendment, which, in writing, does enshrine the right to bear arms. This is the main focal point of many pro-gun activists, who use it as the reason why there should be less restrictions regarding firearms. In the end, all it has really done is further divide between ideological and legal perspectives.

Arguments on Both Sides

While many conservative voices cite the rise in crime as reason for fewer gun restrictions, advocates on the other side would argue otherwise.

Source: Wikimedia/Airwolfhound from Hertfordshire, UK

Those who advocate for stricter laws regarding firearms tend to zero in on the need for public safety imperatives. In theory, this would mitigate not just random gun violence, but also help prevent criminal activities such as mass shootings. Due to lax gun laws, the United States is currently the top record holder for most mass shootings in the western world.

Tragedies Furthering the Conversation

National conversations about the need for comprehensive gun control measures have been even further catalyzed in the wake of tragic mass shootings. Some of these include the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which claimed 28 innocent lives, the majority of whom were children, and the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, which resulted in the deaths of 58 people.

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Unfortunately, though, horrible incidents such as these don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. There have been many more since these events occurred, further intensifying the emotional toll and societal impact around the controversy of firearm safety and availability. 

Calls for Legislative Action

These tragic instances of mass shootings have only further catapulted more calls for further legislative action. Not only to address the issue of the proliferation of firearms, but also to regulate access to certain firearms, and to enhance background checks on those seeking to own one.

Source: Wikimedia/Infrogmation of New Orleans

In the wake of the mass shootings that continually plague the United States, it should seem common sense that these regulations be implemented. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as some would have it.

A Unique Barrier to Entry

Unfortunately, unlike other countries that have managed to accomplish significant gun restrictions, the United States has a unique problem when it comes to gun control.

Source: Wikimedia/U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James Foehl

Each state in the U.S. has significantly different gun legislation, which contributes to the complexity of the issue. Each jurisdiction handles guns differently, and this patchwork model of gun laws only contributes to the complexity of the goal of achieving widespread elimination of gun violence.

The Federal Blockade

Because of how state and federal governments are set up, the diverging opinions on guns has led to significant gridlock on the issue. Particularly in the federal government, many Representatives have stated that any discussion of gun control is a nonstarter. 

Source: Wikimedia/Michael Barera

This has only perpetuated the controversy around gun laws. The inability to create comprehensive, straightforward federal legislation on the issue has contributed significantly to the fragmented regulatory landscape, and hampered any efforts at cohesive national strategies.

Gun Culture in America

The resistance against gun control is contributed to, in large part, by the deeply ingrained gun culture in America. No other country in the world has quite the attachment to firearms like Americans, and it shows in the resistance to any discussion over gun legislation. 

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Hunting culture in many conservative states is one factor that has contributed to the lack of gun control measures, as well as the cultural significance of firearms. The association of guns with personal freedom and self-reliance has helped to shape the national attitude towards firearms. 

Activism Around Gun Legislation

The deep divide in opinions on guns is reflected in the various grassroots groups that have cropped up in the last several decades, both for gun control and against it. 

Source: Wikimedia/Pierre-Selim Huard

The activism of small and large interest groups alike showcases the enduring controversy around guns, as well as the high stakes that are involved in shaping gun policies. The most famous of the organizations, of course, is the National Rifle Association (NRA) which has had a significant hand in blocking gun control legislation in the United States in the last fifteen years.

The Blockade Will Continue

Unfortunately, it’s likely that the blockade around gun legislation will continue. Until efforts are made on the part of both Republicans and Democrats to understand the other side, a nuanced approach to gun control is impossible.

Source: Wikimedia/Columbus Metropolitan Library

Achieving lasting gun control legislation is not as simple as banning guns altogether. The interplay between constitutional rights, public safety imperatives, and societal attitudes must be addressed before any forward movement can take place surrounding gun ownership and legislation.

Important Conversations in an Election Year

Legislators are not the only ones who need to be convinced regarding gun legislation, either. Convincing law enforcement, advocacy groups, and the general public will all prove to be deeply important when it comes to the conversation around gun control, as well. 

Source: Wikimedia/Michael Stokes

These are all deeply important conversations to have in America, particularly in an election year. New state laws and motions are being submitted around guns every month, and only comprehensive federal legislation will smooth out the rough edges of gun laws from state to state. It’ll require bipartisan efforts from both sides, but it would be worth it for the American people, if legislators have the courage to do it.