Intro to the issue:
This case study will focus on the issue of gun violence in the US and its complicated nature. The presentation will analyze how human rights play a part in an issue that seems to be less complicated than it is. This is an issue of security on a national level, that ties into the Peace and Conflict and the Human Rights unit. History: (18th century) Gun ownership and guns themselves have been part of American identity and culture since the American revolution. In the earliest years of America, when its constitution was being drafted, there were two main political parties; the federalists and anti-federalists. In relation to guns and security, the federalists believed that the US should have a large collective military, rather than smaller, state-regulated militias, which is what the Anti-federalists wanted. Unsurprisingly, over half of Americans at this time owned guns, in fear of the British tyrannical rule that they had recently overcome through the help of the right to bear arms. So, in 1791 came the creation of the Second Amendment, under the Bill of Rights, drafted by James Madison, who “wanted to create a compromise in order to allow for there to be a balance in power amongst civil society and the government”.
The second amendment reads as follows: Because of the historical context of the Second amendment, and its wording, many have interpreted it in their own way, and some claim that it is outdated, or irrelevant to our society.
Summary of the issue:
Guns are part of American culture. Not only does a third of the American population legally own a gun, but many use them for recreational purposes. Guns, originally created to kill, have been legitimized through the pervasive need for them. Similarly to a ripple, if one member of society obtains a gun, others who feel threatened or unsafe, will also obtain one. Eventually, the prevalence of guns goes from a small community to a national level. So, what is the concern? If a third of the population of a hegemonic state has a gun, what could possibly go wrong? A lot, actually. America’s citizens have the most guns in the world, in comparison to any other country. And this could explain why gun violence has been on the rise. There have been more than 1,600 mass shootings in the US since the infamous Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012 where twenty children and six staff members were shot by a man that I will not name in order to respect the victims. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the frequency of mass shootings has increased, however, the amount of gun violence in the form of homicides has significantly decrease over the past 50 years. This leads me to the point of whether or not gun violence is preventable and an issue that needs legitimate attention.
In a holistic view, gun violence only amounts to less than half of deaths in the US related to guns. In fact, the majority of gun-related deaths in the US are from suicides, not mass shootings or homicides. And although it is cynical approach to looking at this issue, it is important to look at issues like these subjectively, and not use emotion when deciding which issues are most important. Last year, there were 33,636 deaths due to gun violence in the US, but 1.3 million deaths in vehicular accidents. Gun violence is comparable to terrorism, in that it is a serious issue that warrants attention, but is no where near one of the main causes of death in the US, which is important to keep in mind. In an attempt to take a relativist approach, I believe that it is important to understand causes of gun violence.
Although there are many, the main causes are mental illness (insanity), as seen in the Aurora shooting, where a man shot tens of people in a movie theatre, Another reason is to attempt to become famous and gain notoriety, especially in the media, and finally, for personal reasons that often have to do with homicides rather than indiscriminate acts of violence that are often associated with mass shootings. After all of this evidence of gun violence, one would assume that the most logical way to de-escalate the conflict is to ban guns. Except for one document that prohibits this from ever happening; the Second Amendment. This is where human rights play a part in this issue of security. As mentioned earlier, the second amendment has given US citizens the right to bear arms. This is an absolute right in the US, and is as legitimate as every other right that is granted to them. Those who argue that the second amendment should be removed are forgetting the fact that if there is a removal of one right, who is to say that other fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech arent to be taken away? The reality is that the Second Amendment will never be removed. Another human rights issue that relates to the second Amendment is Article 3 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the US has signed onto. This article essentially states that everyone has a right to “feel safe”, which is also one of the main roles of the government in any legitimate society. Therefore, there is contradiction between the right to bear arms and the right to feel safe. The questions that arise from this is: Is the government’s role to protect the general public more important than the rights of individual gun owners? and Do the people really have the power when it comes to gun rights and ownership? And the issue of gun control and gun violence is not necessarily a political one. When former President Barrack Obama was leading the country, had the majority of the house and senate, there were still no changes made to the issue. This highlights that gun control is not a democrat vs republican issue. And as seen with Galtung’s conflict theory, contradiction in a society where there is legitimate violence creates conflict that is often impossible to resolve. Currently, the US is in the struggle phase of overcoming this issue.
Analysis of the issue:
It is important to recognize that conflicts this complex are not going to be solved in a short time period, or with a simple solution. I will offer three possible recommendations, along with limitations, that I believe are good ways to transform the conflict into negative peace. The first, most common, likely and realistic recommendation is withdrawal. An example of this would be for those fighting for gun reform to give up. Due to the funding that the NRA gives to high-level politicians, and the previously mentioned legal barriers, it is easiest for to withdraw onesself from the situation. However, the downside to this is that no change is made, and the cycle continues where the mass shooting is forgotten about until another one occurs, and anger is yet again sparked. The second solution is compromise. It is most certainly not likely for the same reasons that the Second Amendment will never be removed. An example of a compromise, would be if ‘assault style weapons’ were banned, such as the AR 15, a semi-automatic rifle used in the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. However, the second amendment challenges this: you either have the right bear arms or you don’t, because deciding which arms are appropriate or not would be impossible since they all have the capacity to kill. With gun violence and gun rights, it’s a zero-sum game; either the positive rights of citizens being allowed to bear arms are respected or the negative rights of the general public to feel safe are respected, both cannot co-exist. And finally, Transcendense which is the ideal outcome, would involve discourse and action following that. For example: ie: increasing security and giving teachers guns in case of a school shooting ie: fortifying background checks and making it more difficult for future owners to obtain guns This way, those who wish to own guns may still do so, it would just be more difficult for them to obtain them. A limitation to this is that it would take a diverse group of legislators to create a document that could be universally applicable to any situation for a gun owner across the country. Neverthless, gun violence and gun control is a domestic issue of security and human rights in the US. And despite its complex nature, civil society must work with the government to overcome the atrocoties that occur because of it.