America’s Gun Culture: Desensitization to Gun Violence, the Mental Illness and Gun Policy Debate and Impractical Amendment II Interpretations

The question that I have is, how can America, considerably the most developed nation, be “the leading country with the highest gun violence cases“?

In a study published in the Journal of Political Sciences & Public Affairs, Haynes attributes this to the ownership and distribution of unlicensed guns. If licensed dealers better regulate gun sales, then I believe it can create a trickle-down effect, making it more difficult for criminal civilians, who can’t pass a background check or hold a Concealed Weapons Permit or a License to Carry a Firearm, to illegally obtain weapons from third-party vendors. When congress talks about “gun show loopholes”, they’re referring to the black market— the private sellers. Those considered private sellers don’t make a living from gun sales or have a small collection of guns for sale. Private sellers aren’t obligated to conduct background checks unlike licensed gun dealers. While this defers from state to state, majority have no regulations in place.

1,893 and Counting…

In 2014, there were 12,556 deaths by gun, and by 2017 that number rose to 15,590, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a bipartisan nonprofit organization that collects, as well as fact checks data related to gun-related violence in the U.S. So far, in 2018 that number is 1,893 and counting. These numbers are alarming as the rate of deaths by guns drastically increase every year.

American Gun Culture and Desensitization to Weaponry and Violence

Americans are becoming increasingly desensitized to gun violence. Merriam-Webster defines desensitization as making someone “emotionally insensitive or callous; specifically to extinguish an emotional response (as of fear, anxiety, or guilt) to stimuli that formerly induced it”. Desensitization occurs through a process of repetition, like being subjected to guns and violence on daily basis, which will result in creating less of a shock factor for the individual over time. The hyper glorification of guns in America is disturbing. Instilling this moral that guns should comprise the basic fabric of American livelihood not only traumatizes but also conditions the individual to accept gun violence and gun deaths as normal results of unfortunate circumstance.

We shouldn’t be so naive to think that America is incapable of regression, because America hasn’t always beens as socially and politically advanced as it’s today. This is still a nation that’s remembered for callously stripping Native Americans of their land and sending them to exile and death. The foundation of this country was built from free labor off the backs of African slaves. And we’re systemically continuing these injustices, evident in our prison and public education systems, and ghettos.

The Split Argument: Gun Restrictions and Background Checks><Mental Illness

Conservatives argue that it’s a mental illness or a crime issue, meaning that we should get tougher on crime and closely monitor the “thugs” and “terrorists”. Liberals argue that it’s a combination of immature gun policies, loopholes and lack of meticulous background checks.

I understand the mental illness argument. And its advocates assert that we should create mandatory mental health screenings for the adolescent. Sure, but who is going to fund this? Certainly not the Republicans who are known for slashing public health care programs. And let’s say that we do create a program that funds psychiatric treatment for youths, and even adults, after testing confirms a patient is mentally incompetent with severe behavioral problems— would we not prevent this person from having access to guns? It’s both impractical and counter-effective to want to establish a mental health program but not follow-up with gun restrictions for those proved mentally ill. Essentially, both are needed.

Amendment II Fallacies

Gun glorification burdens the context of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Just as when the first use of a firearm was recorded in 1364, much has also changed since the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791. According to the American Firearms Organization, “…gunpowder was discovered in the 9th century by Chinese alchemists searching for an elixir of immortality” and in 1364 came the first use of a firearm. Throughout this evolution of weaponry, the conclusion is that the invention of guns came at a time when there was much conflict among Chinese dynasties, and the firearm was thus created to kill, to destroy the enemy. And this is the sole purpose of a gun when we look at the evolution of weaponry and analyze it from an academic standpoint.

When gun advocates say, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” they need remember that they’re interdependent— one does not exist without the other. When the first firearm was created, its primary purpose was to destroy the enemy in war, not for sport or to become a vigilante. If we’re going to create a literal interpretation of the Amendment II, then proud gun bearers should opt to fight and protect the state, as this right was created under the succinct status of civil war. The Second Amendment signed in 1791 was initially ascribed to the militia, the state. It reads, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Throughout the 1700 and 1800s, the U.S. was heavily engaged in civil war, for example— the Revolutionary War and American Civil War. Then we should take into consideration that the Second Amendment was enacted at a time where civil battle and enemy obstruction was an imperative part of the social and political structuring and settlement of America. When we try to apply this legislation today, unchanged and not in its true context, the amendment is obsolete and, therefore, inapplicable to the since-evolved sociological and political structure of today.

In present, assault weapons make it all to easy to shoot and kill the target(s). Not only are automatic and even semi-automatic guns more time efficient than their prehistoric forefathers, they’re also geared with advanced technology to better hunt the target with calculated precision. The first recording of firearms “were fired by holding a burning wick to a ‘touch hole’ in the barrel igniting the powder inside”. Simply put, the guns that civilians advocate for today are far unlike the ancient gun models. Rather, civilians are advocating for guns that have undergone innovative engineering upgrades, far surpassing early models created during the late 1300-1700s. The amendment, for this reason, has lost some of its interpretative value. So then shouldn’t we establish a policy that more accurately reflects the firearms that gun manufacturers market today?

How Have Former Gun Policies Affected Gun Violence?

There is some evidence, though not enough, that suggests gun polices may have some a\effect on gun violence, particularly mass shootings.

A study conducted by Kwon & Baack published in The American Journal of Economics and Sociology on past policies, like the 1993 Brady Bill suggest that there wasn’t enough research done to indicate the effectiveness of the policy in relation to gun violence. And the gun violence discussed in this case refers to neighborhood violence and petty crimes—not mass shootings. They argue that, at large, gun violence is attributed to poverty and alcoholism in areas with socio-economic disadvantages. I believe that resources should be allocated to socially and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods to better equip youths for a successful transition into the workforce. While I agree that socio-economic disadvantage is a factor of gun violence, Republican senators and congressmen/women will not pour resources into these social programs, as the allocation of social government subsidies are low on their agenda. I still suggest that, even with government resources for youth, licensed gun dealers, especially private dealers, should be held accountable for applying thorough background checks. I think we should also limit civilians from having access to certain assault weapons.

An academic article titled “Children, Youth, and Gun Violence”, sates that “the lethality and widespread availability of guns have worsened youth violence in this country. Gun violence is a significant cause of death and injury among young people, and imposes serious psychological, economic, and social consequences on children, families, and communities.”

Koper’s study, however, concluded that the Federal Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 achieved a reduction in the availability of assault weapons and magazines. While he suggests that new legislation resembling former gun policies will have little effect on gun violence, he also gathered that it could possibly reduce the likelihood of specific shootings like ones “involving high numbers of shots and victims”—in other words—mass shootings. Koper concluded that the outcomes were unbalanced in decreasing gun specific crimes “due to various exemptions and loopholes in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban“.

The Day-to-day American Embraces the Symbolic and Ideological Meaning of the Right to Bear Arms Over its Practical Implication

In final, I want to bring up a brief mentioning of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence reading, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and I want to remind that these rights are supposed to be inherent at birth. The unalienable, basic rights endow man freedom of speech, social and economic equality, to be happy, to live, to breath, eat and sleep. This leads me to argue that some individuals who arguer their right to the Second Amendment and defend that right by saying, “I have the right to exercise my constitutional rights as an American” are embracing the amendment from a symbolic and ideological standpoint.

The people who I hear saying this most are normally middle-aged southern white males. And I find the defense implausible, because these individuals weren’t/aren’t stripped of their fundamental rights nor are they systematically oppressed by a political system. So when I hear this defense, I know that it’s without merit, almost mimicking and invalidating the struggle that was and still is integrating African-Americans into the same society that’s responsible for eradicating them. As I’ve heard many middle-aged African-American men say, “I’m going to exercise my rights as an American, the right to vote, because my ancestors have shed blood for this basic right”, which is practical.

The right to vote is a basic right, whereas being able to own and shoot guns is more of a privilege. The interesting thing about this is that there are subliminal discriminatory state and local laws in place that limit poor blacks’ access to the voting boots. And the right to vote is supposed to be inherent, as a political vote is meant to reflect one’s political ideology and freedom of speech. This is extremely significant because political composition structures the world economically and socially— for better or for worse. consequentially, it seems like it’s easier for people in America to obtain access to firearms than it’s for people to vote.

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