Epidemic of violence: keys to the arms business in the United States

With less than 5% of the global population, the United States owns 46% of the world’s existing firearms. The abundance of pistols, rifles and other units in circulation, which feeds back into a large market and the action of powerful political pressure groups, is behind what the White House describes as an “epidemic”: that of armed violence, on the rise in 2020 and 2021. It is a daily bloodletting. Events like the racist massacre in Buffalo and the Uvalde school are just the tip of the iceberg of a structural phenomenon whose existence also fuels political polarization.

— The Second Amendment enshrines the inalienable right to bear arms and is one of the 10 amendments to the Constitution that make up the Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791. Twenty-seven words, in its formulation in English, that no one has been able to qualify or correct more than two centuries later: “A well-ordered militia being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” A hypothetical constitutional reform is a melon that nobody wants to open, least of all the Republicans. “We must not react to evil by abandoning our Constitution or violating the rights of our law-abiding citizens,” said Senator Ted Cruz after the Uvalde massacre, who maintains, like his co-religionists, that the epidemic of violence is due to action of unbalanced people, ignoring the ubiquity and ease of access to weapons.

A very profitable and easily accessible market

— Gun sales rose at a record pace in 2020, a year marked by the uncertainty of the pandemic and large protests against police violence, when almost 20,000 lives were claimed, not counting suicides, according to the Pew Research center. Nearly 23 million guns were purchased in 2020 alone, calculates Small Arms Analytics, a South Carolina-based consultancy. The easy access – they are sold in department stores and online – is for experts the main explanation for the increase in violence, in addition to the permissive legislation of some States. Added to the legal tender weapons are the so-called phantoms, assembled from loose parts without a serial number, sometimes printed in 3D and very difficult to trace. The background check of the buyer differs according to the States, ranging from very lax to strict, and in many cases the shooter manages to avoid his history, such as that of Buffalo, who had undergone a psychiatric evaluation a year earlier and made threats. publicly.

— The sector’s business is even rounder after each massacre. On May 25, the day after the Uvalde shooting, shares of manufacturer Ruger rose 5.8%, while those of the historic brand Smith & Wesson soared 10%.

A violence that is primed with minors

— The average rate of gun deaths in the US is 10 times higher than that of the other 22 most advanced democracies. The suicide rate by shooting is 8 times higher, and the homicide rate is 25. But among children and young people, the impact is even more dramatic. In 2020, for the first time, the number of minors killed by gunshots exceeded those killed in traffic accidents, until then the main cause of death in this age group. The trend was repeated in 2021, in both cases due to the number of young black men killed. Among those under 19 years of age, homicides resulting in death occur at a rate 37.5 times higher than that of developed countries. Among high school students, the rate rises to 82. The updated data comes from the Americans Against Gun Violence association.

— Gun Violence Archive has counted 34,500 children killed or injured in shootings since 2014. Some 6,500 were under 12 years old. Since 2019, more than 4,500 have been shot dead, equivalent to the deaths of Americans in the 17 years of the Iraq war.

— The number of high school shootings in 2022 reached 22 last week.

The powerful ‘lobby’ of the NRA

– The powerful lobby of arms, embodied in the National Rifle Association (NRA), held its annual convention when the bodies of Uvalde’s victims were still warm. The group officially spends three million dollars (about 2.8 million euros) a year to influence politics, but that amount represents only the contributions appropriated by legislators; more difficult to trace are other amounts poured through PACs (political action committees) and independent contributions. In all of its activities, including educational campaigns, the NRA spent some 250 million in 2020, much more than all the pro-control groups in the country combined. According to data compiled by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in 2019, two dozen Republican senators have received funding from the NRA. Of them, 16 have registered more than one million, with Mitt Romney at the head (almost 14 million).

— In the 1930s, both the federal government of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Supreme Court restricted the ability to obtain a gun license. Following the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration passed the Gun Control Act in 1968. Under President Bill Clinton, progress was made toward greater regulation , thanks to two laws that created a national criminal record (1993) and established the prohibition of assault weapons (1994). The latter was in force for a decade and was not renewed, due to the political influence of pressure groups. An imminent ruling by the Supreme Court, with a conservative majority, on a lawsuit by two individuals in New York – one of the States with the most restrictive laws on weapons – may end up tilting the law on the side of those who defend the total absence of regulations.

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