Saturday, April 1, 2023

The Never-ending Gun Violence in the USA through Human Rights Lens

Gun violence is a contemporary global human rights issue. Anyone can be affected by firearm violence worldwide but the rising trend of gun-related injuries in several states provides an alarming situation in the USA. The country is witnessing a surge in gun violence as the gun purchase rate has reached its highest level in 2020 and 2021. There have been more mass shootings than days so far in 2022; a trend that’s continued each year since 2019. This year is likely to be the second-highest year for mass shootings in the United States on record, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive. Yet governmental bodies in the United States are ignoring the connection between gun violence and violation of human rights, resulting in more casualties each year.

Gun Violence and Violation of Human Rights Situation in the USA

Gun-related violence threatens our most fundamental human right, the right to life. It is a daily tragedy affecting the lives of individuals around the world. More than 500 people die every day because of violence committed with firearms.  It is not only having lasting impacts on victims and their families but also deteriorating the overall human rights situation in the country.

Among wealthier and developed countries, the USA is an outlier when it comes to firearm violence. It seems the US government has allowed gun violence to become a human rights crisis. Wide access to firearms and loose regulations lead to more than 39,000 men, women, and children being killed with guns each year in the USA. Due to the gun culture, the USA has topped in civilian guns owing in the top. It now has 120 guns per 100 population, a number even higher than Yemen- a country currently in one of the worst civil wars of recent times.

Numerous observers claim that the US government’s unilateral activities have brought up fresh humanitarian problems all around the world. The US government is prioritizing gun ownership over basic human rights. Despite the huge number of guns in circulation and the sheer number of people killed by guns each year, there is a shocking lack of federal regulations that could save thousands. 

Noteworthy, in the USA, firearm homicide disproportionately impacts African American communities, particularly young black men. African Americans accounted for 58.5% of these nationwide, despite making up just 13% of the US population. This is a clear sign of human rights violation. The nation’s escalating prejudice against ethnic minorities, particularly those of Asian heritage is also concerning.

Why Gun Violence in the USA needs to be stopped?

An estimated 2,000 people are injured by gunshots every single day and at least 2 million people are living with firearm injuries around the globe. Among them, the United States has a far greater rate of gun violence than other nations, particularly developed nations. Millions of people suffer the severe and long-term psychological effects that gun violence brings to individuals, families, and their wider community. While focusing much on data, statistics, and ranking, we often forget the tragic stories behind each number. Each life matters and everyone has a different story.

Gun violence is not stopping just by killing a person or mass shooting; rather, it is becoming a vicious cycle where the growing number of gun violence creates insecurity in peoples’ mind, which result in buying new guns to ensure their safety. The ever-increasing gun suicide rate also reveals the vulnerability inside the country. The availability of guns, together with other factors, is contributing to the increasing rate of gun violence.

Given that the right to life is the most important human right, whether the US can effectively curb gun violence should be an important yardstick for the international community to measure its human rights. The U.S. authorities should work more on improving the security situation by taking effective gun control measures before the situation gets out of hand. Besides, they should also establish a victim support mechanism to help the survivors and victims’ families to overcome the grief of losing their loved ones.

Way Forward

Gun violence was a major issue during the recent midterm elections in the US. President Joe Biden said that gun violence must be tackled, but repeated shootings indicate that the problem is only getting worse. Effectively implemented gun regulation and violence prevention projects can stop the carnage. As a first step, states should recognize firearm violence as a threat to people’s human rights, in particular their rights to life, to physical integrity and security of person, and health. For this, strict legislation and enforcement are required. The US administration should concentrate on fixing the situation in its own country first rather than offering counsel or advice to others.

The USA must maximize the protection of human rights, creating the safest possible environment for most people, especially those considered to be at the greatest risk. If a state does not exercise adequate control over the possession and use of firearms in the face of persistent gun violence, this could amount to a breach of its obligations under international human rights law. It is yet to make a very progressive decision regarding stricter laws. So, the US should focus on its domestic condition while promoting the very same policy in its human rights and foreign policy.

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