III. Gun Violence Lays Bare the Decline of U.S. Governance Capacity
Given a political system where different sides hold each other back, an increasingly polarized political ecosystem, pervasive interest groups and ineradicable racial discrimination, gun control in the United States is in stalemate, and a total ban on guns is effectively a mission impossible.
How the U.S. political system is designed and operates constitutes the root cause of ineffective gun control. Gun control intensity varies across different states, making it increasingly difficult to regulate guns and perform interstate enforcement. Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group, compared gun policies across the country, rating every state on the strength of its gun laws and comparing it with its gun violence occurrence. A positive correlation was found between ineffective gun control and gun violence rate. Eight states, including California and Hawaii,?with comparatively well-established gun laws saw relatively low gun violence rates, while the 13 states with the weakest gun control, including Texas, Alaska and Missouri, have nearly three times as many gun deaths as the eight states mentioned above.
Positions of Democrats and Republicans on gun control are becoming increasingly polarized. In 1968, the House voted 305-118?and the Senate 70-17?to pass the Gun Control Act. Since then, the two parties have been increasingly divergent over gun control. Republicans have always supported gun ownership, while Democrats have unequivocally supported gun control. Given the polarized U.S. political landscape at present, it is even more difficult for either party to compromise. The New York Times reported that since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, despite a Democratic push for gun control, 14 Republican-controlled states have gone the opposite way, passing laws allowing their citizens to carry guns without any licensing process. The Washington Post reported that in recent years, the Republican Party has posted a myriad of pictures and videos containing guns in newspapers, billboards and social media to appeal to voters who oppose gun control for campaigning purposes.
Interest group lobbying is rampant. Group politics and electoral politics in the United States have provided legalized channels for gun groups to conduct money politics and influence the stance of Congress members on guns. According to OpenSecrets statistics, from 1990 to 2022, gun ownership groups contributed 69.3 million U.S. dollars to federal and state candidates, while gun control groups contributed 51.6 million U.S. dollars. From 1998 to 2022, gun ownership groups spent 190.4 million U.S. dollars on lobbying, while gun control groups spent 28.9 million U.S. dollars. In the 117th Congress, 262 members have been sponsored by the NRA, among which 19 have each received more than 1 million U.S. dollars cumulatively. The vast majority of them are Republicans. Meanwhile, the NRA has spent handsomely against pro-gun control lawmakers. All five of the lawmakers whom the association has paid millions of dollars to oppose are Democrats.
Gun violence is exacerbated by long-standing social problems in the United States such as social inequality and racial tensions. Research shows that blacks are much more likely to encounter gun murder than whites, and half of all gun murder victims are black. In 2010, 14.6 out of 100,000 blacks were murdered, compared with 1.9 for whites.?According to research by the CDC, between 2019 and 2020, gun homicides nationwide rose from 14,392 to 19,350, with the occurrence rate up from 4.6 to 6.1 per 100,000 people, a 34.6 percent increase.?Of the 90,498 gun-related deaths in 2020 and 2021, 38,796 were murders, among which nearly 21,000 involved young black males.
The right to life is the biggest human right. The Declaration of Independence begins with the statement that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable rights. One gunshot after another have shattered the American Dream that all men are endowed with the unalienable rights to life and liberty, and lead people to reflect deeply on where the American-style human rights really are. Some U.S. politicians have long treated the American people's right to life with indifference. Faced with growing gun proliferation, they have done nothing more than empty talks and prolonged debates, while pointing fingers at the human rights conditions of other countries. The most important thing that they are duty-bound to do is face up to and address their own problems, and let the American people enjoy true freedom from the fear of gun violence.