Why are mass shootings so frequent in America?

bu-op-icons-benjieBy BENJIE OLIVEROS
Bulatlat perspective

The Orlando shooting at the Pulse club, considered as the deadliest mass shooting in US history so far, shocked the world. Aside from the fact that there were 49 killed and 50 wounded, the cold, methodical manner by which it was carried out makes one wonder how much hate there was in the gunman to be able to do such a horrendous crime. Hate must have figured in the mass killing as it was done in a popular gay bar. But perhaps, it was not only hate that figured in the mass shooting.

Mass shootings have become so frequent in America that schools have lock down drills while other countries such as the Philippines have earthquake and fire drills. For this year alone, the Gun Violence Archive – which defines mass shooting as an incident where four or more people are wounded or killed – recorded 136 mass shootings in the 164 days of 2016. According to a CNN June 13, 2016 report, of the 30 deadliest shootings in US history since 1949, 16 occurred during the last 10 years.

According to the same CNN report, seven out of 10 mass shootings were carried out inside business establishments and schools.

The data above represents just the mass shootings, using the four or more killed or wounded criteria. It does not yet include the shooting incidents that claimed one to three victims. For example, the Orlando club shooting was just 24 hours apart from the seemingly senseless shooting of singer Christina Grimmie, which occurred in the same city. If not for the quick response of Christina’s brother who tackled the gunman, who had two handguns, two additional loaded magazines and a large hunting knife with him, more could have been killed.

These senseless shootings have occurred with so much frequency in America that the American Medical Association (AMA) has declared gun violence as a “public health crisis.” An interaksyon.com report quoted Dr. Steven Stack, the president of AMA: “With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence.”

What other factors could have caused the high incidence of mass shootings and gun violence in America?

For one, the US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world at 90 per 100 people.

The US Constitution, specifically the Second Amendment, guarantees the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Aside from the US, only Guatemala, Mexico, and Haiti have constitutional guarantees on the “right to keep and bear arms,” with Guatemala having the broadest provision similar to the US.

With the recent mass shootings, there is a growing clamor for the government to tighten gun control. But the lobby of the National Rifle Association (NRA) is so strong that nothing comes out of it. For example, in 1993, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “The study found that keeping a guhttp://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2013/02/gun-violence.aspxn in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide.”

In response, the NRA lobbied for the dissolution of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention, which funded the study. As a result, Congress included a provision in the 1996 Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 1997 that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” Fearing that its funds might be cut off, the CDC made a self-imposed ban on funding research on gun violence.

Also according to the same article Gun violence research: History of the federal funding freeze| Newtown tragedy may lead to lifting of freeze in place since 1996, written by Christine Jamieson and published by the American Psychological Association, when the American Journal of Health published, in 2009, an article by Branas et al., titled Investigating the link between gun possession and gun assault, presenting the results of research that was funded by the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the US Congress again included a similar provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 , specifically in the appropriations that funded the National Institutes of Health.

However, gun ownership density alone does not explain the high incidence of mass shootings and gun violence in the US. In Switzerland, gun ownership rate is at 46 guns per 100 people and yet, gun violence is not that high.

For example in 2011, there were 239 gun deaths in Switzerland compared to 33,599 in the US.

Switzerland had only one mass shooting in recent history and it happened in 2001 when a disgruntled citizen opened fire inside a regional parliament building killing 14 people and injuring 14 others. Still, Switzerland has been touted as a model of a responsible gun culture.

In Switzerland, gun bearing is considered a patriotic duty. It is meant to defend the small country from the threat of invasion. And Switzerland is considered as a neutral country.

The US, on the other hand, is not a neutral country and has used its firepower to assert its military hegemony. In other words, guns are treated as a weapon not so much for defense, although that has been the claim, but for offensive ends. Among the biggest and most powerful industries in the US are the weapons and security industries. The defense expenditures of the US have increased dramatically compared to the World War II and Cold War years.

Omar Mateen, the Orlando Pulse club shooter, was an employees of a big security contractor G4S, which has been hired by the US government to detain and deport people trying to cross the border from Mexico, and to run juvenile detention centers.

An article Conflicting Confusions: the Hyper-Masculinity of Omar Mateen, written by Justin Hughes and published by progressive online news magazine Counterpunch, also attributed the Orlando mass shooting to the culture of “aggressive masculinity.”

This aggressive masculinity is consistent with the idea being propagated by US politicians that the US is “the greatest and the most powerful nation in the world” and the “policeman of the world.” It is also consistent with the “jock culture” in US schools where “nerds” are being bullied and those who do not fall under the category of “jocks” or “nerds” are considered as outcasts.

Another factor is the intensifying xenophobia and racism, being reinforced by politicians such as Donald Trump. Racism instigates violence, especially from racists such as what happened to an African-American girl who was dragged with a rope by white boy schoolmates.

But also feelings of isolation, persecution, and oppression due to xenophobia and racism could instigate a violent response. Why has ISIS been attracting a large number of followers despite reports depicting its violent acts?

And the more the economic crisis, which has been resulting in mass poverty and social injustices, intensifies, the more racism is being fanned on one end and the more violent responses could be expected from the other end of the spectrum.
A lot of factors come into play. And the supposed “land of the free and the brave,” the purported “bastion of democracy,” has been suffering most from the phenomena of mass shootings and gun violence.

What is the significance of this American “public health crisis” for the Philippines? Well, until the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is revoked by the incoming Duterte administration, the country would be host to a lot of high-powered firearm-bearing American soldiers, with their aggressive masculinity and feelings of superiority. This is a recipe for senseless killings. Remember Jennifer Laude. ()

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