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The American Gun Violence Story: Unravelling the Epidemic

Exploring the Heartache: into the Enigma of American Gun Violence

30 Apr '24
8 min read


There's this song called "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People”. The first time I heard it, the music stuck with me so much that—I was compelled to do what I rarely do for a piece of pop song - look up the lyrics and what they mean. 

Upon slowly going through the lyrics, It dawned upon me that it in fact, talks about a mass shooting in a school and that too, most likely from the shooter’s perspective.

The revelation hit me differently. I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘how deeply ingrained does something need to be in a culture for it to emerge in mainstream art and music?’

The answer unfortunately was that, ‘Gun violence is pervasive in America!’

A memorial honors victims of the 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School. Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman. Source: The Texas Tribune

As I find myself drawn into the bewildering maze of American gun violence, a world where, as it unfolds in front of me on my computer screen, the cold statistics gradually bleed into chilling and graphic real life stories. Stories with faces of children like my cousins, brothers and sisters, hiding in plain sight from a gunshot with nothing to defend themselves but their classroom stationary. Faces of parents who have lost their children forever just because they have to send them to school.

To be fair, it is true that every culture and country may have its own challenges. But from the busy and hasty streets of Mumbai to the calming backwaters of Kerala, my homeland pulses with its own rhythms, its own struggles. And yet, across continents and oceans, the issue of gun violence in the United States stands out, as a haunting reminder of humanity's capacity for not only compassion but also gruesome cruelty.

This wasn't the first time I had heard of the prevalent gun violence in the US, but it was the first time I actively sought out information and found myself pondering:


How is it so prevalent?

And after all this, Why are guns still legalized?

These questions may seem simple at first glance. 

But as I dived deeper into the landscape of this issue alongside being consumed by a strange whirlwind of anger at the senselessness of it all and sadness at what humanity can be capable of.

I realized that the answers to these questions are more than just simple at first glance.

The American Horror Story of Gun Violence is a narrative that transcends mere statistics, seeping into the collective consciousness of a nation grappling with its identity and its values.

And in order to truly understand the complexities surrounding the epidemic, one must delve into all aspects of the scenario: from legislative challenges to societal factors and the human toll it exacts.

The Statistical Landscape

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visits the memorial outside a dance studio where a mass shooting took place on Lunar New Year’s Eve on Jan. 25, 2023, in Monterey Park, Calif. Public domain photo by Lawrence Jackson. Source: Health Journalism

If we take just as much as one glance at the data and statistics representing the severity of gun violence in the US, we see a very grim portrait of its landscape in front of us

43,000 are the number of lives the United States lost  due to gun violence in 2023 alone, with a shocking  6,192 of those being young children and teenagers

And in 2023 alone, 14 million firearms were purchased by Americans, further contributing to the country’s astounding 120.5 firearms per 100 residents ratio.

There were also 604 reported mass shootings in 2023, with fatalities of about 754 along with 2,443 injuries.

It can be said that all in all, there are at least a whopping 494.4 million firearms in circulation among the U.S. population of 335.89 million.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a significant number of deaths each year involve the inclusion of firearms. 

With the firearm homicide rate increasing by 35% from 2019 to 2020, along with a high firearm suicide rate. With the homicide rate involving firearms being at its record high in over 25 years in the year 2020.

On examining the number of gun deaths per 100,000 population by country, it can be clearly seen that the contrast in the statistics stands out as a highlight and with Afghanistan at 1.32, Syria at 1.00, Pakistan at 0.93, and India at 0.56, the United States leads with 4.12 gun deaths per 100,000. 

The regions like the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico also seem to have significantly higher gun death rates of up to 19.72 and 19.29 per 100,000 of the population.

Surprisingly, even nations such as Somalia have a seemingly lower rate at a whopping 5.06 per 100,000, further highlighting this concerning trend.

It might be important to note that in most of the states within the United States, not only are the residents allowed to possess and carry firearms without an official license, but procuring one is also extremely simple with many of the local supermarkets even selling them openly.

Source: New Scientist

And this allure of accessing a gun is so vast in the states that even a lot of car dealerships often use guns as an incentive to make their sales. For example: offering an AK-47 rifle with the purchase of a vehicle like a truck etc.

Furthermore, in some states, individuals as young as 18 are shockingly legally allowed to make assault rifle purchases, although they may not yet be permitted to consume or buy alcohol, until 21 years of age. 

It feels more than just a little bit unusual and absurd that the government believes it can trust teenagers with Guns & Marriage but not Alcohol.

Amidst all the available data and numbers on the issue, mass shootings in the US do gain a fairly good amount of attention from the media along with public outcry with the instances of shootings like the 2018 Parkland shooting and the 2019 El Paso shooting serving as painstaking reminders of the devastation left behind by gun-violence throughout the country. 

And yet these reported incidents might only be representing a fraction of the total gun related incidents happening throughout the darker and lesser known alleys of everyday life.

Legislative Challenges

Source: Ibanet

USA’s gun laws vary across its many states and often are at the very core of the debate around the prevailing epidemic of gun violence. The second amendment of the constitution of the United States that is concerned with protecting the people’s right to keep and bear firearms is often quoted or cited in debates and conversations about gun and firearms control. And turns out to be a barrier to legislative efforts that are set up with a goal to curb the prevalent gun culture.

Any attempts at the federal level to exercise well spelled out gun control measures have been met with aggressive resistance from pro-gun activists across the nation. 

This has ended up leading to a legislative gridlock, further limiting progress. Furthermore, any conversations over the notion of universal background checks and weapon bans continue to separate the public and policy makers alike.

Some states have even gone as far as to take measures to further gun regulations in response to citizen outcries, with the aim of protecting communities. While, other states have taken a different approach, lifting regulations on handgun ownership and carry, making it more difficult to assure everyone's safety.

This disparate approach among states presents a substantial issue for addressing gun violence on a national scale. With each state taking its own path, enacting effective steps to reduce gun violence becomes an uphill battle, leaving many wondering if a unified strategy might make a genuine impact.

Societal Factors

Source: Vanderbilt Political Review

In addition to legislative hurdles, gun violence in the United States is linked to complicated cultural problems such as poverty, mental health concerns, and structural imbalances.

According to research, populations facing economic distress and restricted access to education and opportunity are disproportionately affected by gun violence. Similarly, the relationship between mental illness and access to weapons has prompted questions about the role of mental health in reducing violence.

In addition, institutional concerns like racism and inequality contribute to the incidence of gun violence in underprivileged areas. The disproportionate impact of gun violence on Black and Hispanic communities emphasizes the importance of a holistic strategy that targets not only weapon availability but also the underlying social and economic imbalances that drive violence.

The Active Shooter Response Training:

Source: Wagner Edu

Active shooter response drills have become more prevalent in schools and institutions, prompting discussions on their efficacy and potential drawbacks, including physical injuries and psychological impacts on participants.

The necessity of preparing individuals, including young children, for such scenarios is concerning, especially considering that some shooters have been former students familiar with defense strategies from past drills. 

Source: Pinterest

And yet, time and again when the government has tried to restrict guns, it has been met with great resistance, compelling the government to take a step back.

Source: E learning Company on Active Shooter Response Training

Ultimately, the fight against gun violence in the USA is a collective endeavor that demands the commitment and engagement of policymakers, community leaders, advocacy groups, and individuals alike. 

By confronting the root causes of violence and working together to implement evidence-based solutions, they can strive to create a safer and more just society for all the residents.

Until then we can only continue to keep the light of hope burning for a safer America along with ever pressing questions like:

Will there be a day when one can go to a concert without the fear of their own life's safety ?

Walk the streets of Chicago at night not worrying about getting robbed at Gunpoint or worse being shot at?

And will there be a day in America when kids feel safe going to school without worrying about getting shot ?


Category : World


Written by Saneki Basundhara

Writer, Assistant Director