I. The Surge of Gun Violence in the United States
Gun violence is one of the acutest social problems in the United States, with ramifications not only for the victims and their families, but also for the entire society and country. In addition to the casualties caused and the threat to public security, it has also resulted in enormous economic losses and social trauma for the nation.
The United States is the country with the most civilian-held firearms. With less than 5 percent of the world's population, it accounts for 46 percent of global civilian gun ownership.?As estimated by the Small Arms Survey in Switzerland, the global stockpile of civilian-held firearms has increased from 650 million in 2006 to 857 million in 2017, largely attributable to soaring figures in the United States. In 2017, about 393.3 million guns were privately owned in the United States at a time when its population was less than 326.5 million.?This amounts to 120.5 firearms for every 100 people.?The second-ranked country was war-torn Yemen, with 52.8 guns per 100 people. While the United States ranks first in the world in terms of both individual gun ownership and the number of guns per capita, only about 1.07 million civilian guns are registered,?indicating that the vast majority of firearms owned by civilians are left unregistered and uncounted.
美國是世界上民間擁有槍支最多的國家。美國人口占全球人口不到5%，但民間擁槍數卻占全球的46%。據瑞士“小型武器調查”項目（Small Arms Survey）評估，全球民間持有槍支從2006年的6.5億增加到2017年的8.57億，很大程度上歸因于美國民間擁槍數大幅上升。2017年，美國私人擁有槍支約3.933億支，而當時美國人口不到3.265億人，平均每100人約擁有120.5支槍。而位居第二的是處于戰亂之中的也門，每100人擁槍數為52.8支。無論是私人擁槍總數，還是人均擁槍數量，美國都高居世界第一，但登記注冊的私人擁槍數卻只有107萬支左右，絕大多數槍支處于未經登記注冊而散佚于民間的狀態。
A latest study by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) reveals that the United States is in the midst of a massive gun-buying boom that shows no signs of abating. From 2000 to 2020, annual production of firearms in the country almost tripled,?with a dramatic increase in the?past three years?in particular. Since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about more social problems. The "Black Lives Matter (BLM)"?movement sparked a series of looting and riots, aggravating social insecurity. As a result, demand for semi-automatic pistols for self-protection surged and gun sales soared at a record pace. According to the U.S. National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the United States conducted 21 million background checks for gun purchases in 2020, a 60 percent increase from 2019 and a record high, surpassing the previous record in 2016 by 5.3 million. The sudden first-time gun ownership by millions of Americans has inevitably given rise to considerable security threats.
Individual ownership of a large number of guns has triggered incessant violence, putting social security in the United States at greater risk. As pointed out by some American scholars, gun-related deaths in the United States in one week may exceed those in the whole Western Europe in one year. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the firearm homicide rate in the United States reached its highest level since 1994. According to a survey by the Giffords Law Center, 32 of the country's 50 largest cities witnessed a prominent increase in firearm homicides in 2021. The Guardian reported in October 2021 that every 16 hours, a woman is fatally shot by her partner in the United States. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2018 to 2021, the proliferation of guns not only resulted in a spike in homicides across the country, but also led to more suicides by people with mental illnesses. According to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), gun-related casualties surged to 85,584 in 2021 from 34,231 in 2014.?Among the nearly 95,000 homicides between 2015 and 2019, about 74 percent were committed with firearms. In 2020, firearm-related deaths reached 45,222, an average of 124 per day. Firearm injuries are one of the top five causes of death for people aged 1 to 44 in the country.
Recent years have witnessed frequent mass shootings in the United States, causing alarmingly high casualties. By American standards, a mass shooting is defined as an incident of gun violence in which four or more people are injured or killed, excluding the suspect or the gunman. According to GVA data, both mass shootings and deaths in the United States have surged about fourfold since 2013. There were 417 mass shootings in the country in 2019, 611 in 2020, and 692 in 2021.?In 2022, there were 213 mass shootings reported in 34 states and the capital Washington, D.C. by the end of May, with 242 killed and 912 wounded, a 50 percent increase over the same period in 2017 and a 150 percent increase over the same period in 2013. On July 4, 2022, Independence Day of the United States, a 21-year-old white man fired more than 50 shots from a rooftop at a parade in Highland Park, a suburb north of Chicago, killing at least seven people and injuring more than 30. On Jan. 21 and 23, 2023, tragic shootings occurred in Monterey Park of Los Angeles County, California and Half Moon Bay in northern California, killing 17 and injuring 11.
The United States has seen repeated mass school shootings for many years, causing serious trauma to the American society. The mass shooting at the Columbine High School in Colorado in April 1999 killed 13 people and left more than 20 injured.?In April 2007, the shooting at Virginia Tech resulted in the death of 32 students and faculty members. GVA data show that, over the past decade, 27 mass school shootings took place in the United States. The deadliest shootings among them are:?December 2012, Connecticut, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, 26 killed including 20 children aged six to seven; October 2015, Roseburg, Oregon, Umpqua Community College shooting, 10 killed; February 2018, Parkland, Florida, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, 17 killed (14 students and 3 faculty members) and 17 injured;?May 2018, Houston, Santa Fe High School shooting, 10 killed. In May 2022, an 18-year-old gunman entered the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and killed 21 people including 19 children.?This last incident was the 27th school shooting in the United States in 2022. It was also one of the worst in recent years.
Gun violence also inflicts huge economic losses. According to Brady, an organization that advocates gun control, gun violence costs the U.S. economy at least 229 billion U.S. dollars each year. In May 2022, in the wake of the shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde County, Texas, over 200 CEOs co-signed a letter urging the U.S. Senate to take immediate actions to address gun violence. In the letter, it was stated that "gun violence costs American taxpayers, employers and communities a staggering 280 billion U.S. dollars per year".
Gun violence has also taken a toll on the everyday life of the American people. A poll conducted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 21 percent?of American adults have experienced gun violence in which their relatives, friends or themselves have been threatened with a gun or have fallen victim to a shooting. As many as 54 percent?of black and Hispanic Americans say that they have had similar experience. The Associated Press reported a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), which shows that one-third?of American adults feel they cannot go anywhere without worrying about being a victim of a mass shooting, and nearly a quarter?of them admit that they have changed their behavior due to fear of mass shootings.