Almost every day, you hear of raids, gang wars, family tragedies or rampages in the news. A particularly shocking event took place on September 1st this year. A man is shot dead by his neighbor and his son for a trivial quarrel (click here for the story). The whole incident was filmed by a cell phone. This senseless and cold-blooded murder has caused me to have a closer look into the American gun culture.
WHY IS THE RELATIONSHIP TO GUNS SO SPECIAL IN AMERICA?
To get to the bottom of this question, you have to look at the American history. Since its founding in 1776, the United States have been at war almost throughout the whole time. Everything kind of started with the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). This war plays a decisive role regarding the topic of gun culture. If it was not for all the armed Americans of that time, they would never have been able to defeat the European colonial powers. Accordingly, the American independence and thus democracy was brutally gained with the help of armed forces. From this time point, Americans seem to have a certain paranoia when it comes to people and governments, that could potentially jeopardize their rights.
2nd Amendment – The Shrine of Gun Lovers
Therefore, in 1791, the Second Amendment was incorporated into the Constitution of the United States of America. Which allows individuals to own weapons: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Many more wars and battles follow. At this point I would like to list the most succinct ones:
- Various Indian wars
- American Civil War
- World War I
- World War II
- Korean War
- Vietnam War
The longest period in which the US was not at war was from 1935 to 1940 (during the Great Depression).
After 1900 there was no further war within the USA. Wars and battles have always took place abroad ever since. For this reason, I get the impression that many gun proponents have a romanticized idea of self-defense and resistance fights. Although people mourn their fallen soldiers – war heroes – , they seem to lose the sense of the real consequences of war, since those take place in other countries. The majority of gun supporters is convinced that guns are THE tool par excellence to defend themselves and their rights.
Europeans think very differently. Germany in particular, has a completely other association concerning firearms. One must not forget, that Germany was completely detroyed 73 years ago. Firearms of any kind are primarily associated with death and destruction.
While there are more guns (357 million) than residents (325.7 million) in the US, there are 5.8 million registered guns in Germany (82,5 million residents). The number of unreported firearms is much higher, reportedly 20 million.
GERMAN GUN LAW VS. AMERICAN GUN LAW
In order to possess a proper firearm in Germany, you need a firearm license (WBK). The following requirements must be met for this:
- You have to be at least 18 years old to buy a firearm
- Permanent residence in Germany
- No criminal record
- You can not be a member of a radical group
- No (drug)addiction
- You have to be mentally fit
- You have to be a member of a shooting club for one year, at least
- Write a so called „Shooting Book“ (you need to prove that you shoot at least once a month, or 18 times a year)
- Confirmation by the shooting club, that you have a “need” for shooting, e.g. Sports
- Pass an expert test about guns
- Own a special gun safe (send proof to the authorities)
- Store guns and ammunition separately
- Guns may not be carried, therefore you need another license (Waffenschein)
Gun laws in the U.S. vary from state to state. Following, I list the loosest as well as the strictest gun regulations.
- You have to be a US citizen
- You have to be at least 18 years old to buy a firearm, but there are exceptions for younger people
- You can not be a convicted offender
- For the purchase of hand guns or rifles no license is necessary
- No license is required to carry a gun
- Guns do not need to be registered
- There is no requirement of a license in order to carry handguns or rifles
- A background check is not required, but in Idaho all guns shipments are handled by licensed dealers directly through the FBI.
- You have to be a US citizen
- You have to be at least 18 years to buy a shotgun or rifle
- You have to be at least 21 years old to buy a handgun
- You have to live or work in the county
- You can not be a convicted offender
- You have to be mentally fit
- You have to pass a “Firearm Safety Certificate” test in order to buy a handgun
- You need a license to carry guns
- Guns must be registered even if you buy it private.
- Backgroundcheck, ten days waiting period
SAFETY MEASURES IN AMERICAN SCHOOLS
You know it from certain movies and TV Shows, that American students are first searched, before they enter the classrooms. This is by no means an exaggeration. Metal detectors, searches, dogs and armed police in front of schools are not a Hollywood invention, but rather more the reality in which American children and adolescents live.
About 95% of Elementary Schools control their entrances by locking them or monitoring them with cameras. Almost 95% of High Schools are also equipped with surveillance cameras from the inside. For Elementary Schools, it is 73%.
Teachers and school staff have to carry an ID Badge with a photo of themselves in 73% of all Elementary Schools. In 16% of all High Schools, students must also carry a student ID Badge.
About 72% of all High Schools and about 45% of all Elementary Schools are equipped with security personnel. Where the vast majority is armed. Ten years ago it was „only“ 63% and 26%, respectively.
In 62% of all High Schools and 6% of all Elementary Schools every now and then drug detection dogs are used.
In 10% of all High Schools, students are searched with the help of metal detectors.
(Source: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=334 und https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/armed-security-officers-schools-increasing-report/story?id=54095112)
WHAT IS THE NRA AND WHY IS IT SO POWERFUL?
The National Rifle Association was founded in 1871 with the intention of training men to better use firearms and to improve shooting skills. Since 1934, the NRA is also politically active. The association supported two important gun control laws:
- National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA)
- Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA)
The NRA has become more and more political over the years. In 1977, the association established its own Political Action Committee (PAC) to distribute funds to legislators.
The NRA spends more than all other gun control groups in the country combined. About $250 million a year! Let that sink in. For lobbying alone, the association officially spends about 3 million Dollars and more annually. After all, they want to be at the forefront of gun policy. These are only the registered contributions to the legislators. The actually interesting numbers are spent otherwise via PACs (own political action committees) and are thus harder to track. It is a shame, that you always have to follow the flow of money, to get an idea of the true intentions of the decision makers.
The NRA is firmly convinced that more guns would make the country safer. They use every shooting, in which people lose their lives, to advance their mission. Because: “The only way to kill a bad guy with a gun, is a good man with a gun.” This is why there are – as already mentioned – armed police officers in front of schools to stop aktive shooters in time. Sometimes this strategy even works, but it did not work out for the 23 school shootings this year. 23 too much if you ask me. Guns in schools… in every classroom! Then the potential offender does not even need to get a weapon himself – that would be in school already, how convenient. And what happens if a teacher loses control? Again, this is a possible scenario, ugly and cruel, but not impossible. Fortunately, these are “only” ideas, until now. If there are actually armed teachers in schools, I assume that the number of homeschoolers will skyrocket.
The NRA also vehemently advocates that regular people like you and me should carry arms. Some states have very little hurdles, when it comes to open carry. Here in Florida, I have never seen a civilian carrying a gun. In Texas, on the other hand I did. Mother, father and a little child.
Non-partisan observers point to concerns that the NRA’s political involvement is remarkable but indirect in its influence. According to Business Insider, the NRA has been blocking a government-commissioned study for decades to further investigate U.S. gun violence. The association also publicly assesses members of the congress from A to F on their perceived „gun friendliness”. These ratings can have a not insignificant effect on poll numbers and even cost a seat to sitting members who vote for a stronger gun law.
It’s hard to say how many members the NRA actually has. The numbers vary. According to the BBC, the powerful gun association inflates the number of members. Five million should it be according to the NRA. Experts estimate the number closer to three million.
PARKLAND – WIND OF CHANGE
Since the gruesome school shooting on February 14, 2018 in Parkland Florida, something really seems to be changing in America. Pupils, parents, teachers, polishers, celebrities and even gun advocates from across the nation are publicly advocating a stricter gun law. Well-known companies like:
- Enterprise Holdings
- Wyndham hotels
- Delta Airlines
- United Airlines
- Avis / Budget
- Best Western
- Starkey Hearing Technologies
distance themselves from the NRA and cancel existing contracts or do not renew them. Now there are no discounts or similar amenities for NRA members anymore. The NRA and its members were not pleased.
In addition, the United States’ two leading arms dealers (Walmart and Dicks Sporting Goods) raised the minimum age for purchasing weapons, from 18 to 21 years. Both dealers also promise to sell no more assault rifles.
But there are also companies who stay with the NRA:
- Lockton (subsidiary)
- Hotel planner
- Midway USA,
- Vinesse Wines
- Apple TV, Youtube and Roku show NRA TV
Students across the country have had enough and are rightfully angry and demand stricter gun laws. I can not even begin to imagine what it must feel like to go to school with fear for your own wellbeing. It’s a real fear. Statistically, more people have died in schools shootings this year, than American soldiers in action. Students literally march and demonstrate for their lives (March for our Lives). The NRA and certain gun proponents still have the audacity to say those demonstrations are senseless. Those young people would have no idea what they are talking about and should not interfere in politics. When I hear statements like this, I could explode. This level of ignorance is really remarkable and should be treated, seriously. Fortunately, all the Millennials, who grew up with school shootings, can vote this year. November is coming. I am beyond excited about the midterms.
LIST OF ALL SCHOOL SHOOTINGS IN 2018
May 25: Noblesville, Indiana
After a gunman opened fire at Noblesville West Middle School, two people were injured.
May 18: Santa Fe, Texas
A 17-year-old student of Santa Fe High School killed eight Students and two teachers. Ten more people were injured during this school shooting.
May 11: Palmdale, California
A 14-year-old former student went to Highland High and began shooting with a semiautomatic rifle injuring a 15-year-old boy in the process.
April 20: Ocala, Florida
A 19-year-old former student of Forest High School shot a 17-year-old student in the ankle, shortly before students were to walk out as part of a national protest against gun violence.
April 12: Raytown, Missouri
During a track meet, a man was shot in the stomach in the parking lot of Raytown South Middle School.
April 9: Gloversville, New York
A student shot another student with a BB gun in Gloversville Middle School.
March 20: Lexington Park, Maryland
Two Students of Great Mills High School were shot by another Student. An armed school resource officer killed the shooter. One of the two victims, 16-year-old girl Jaelynn Willey, was taken off life support two days later.
March 13: Seaside, California
A student was injured during a public safety class at Seaside High School by the teacher, who accidentally discharged a gun.
March 8: Mobile, Alabama
After a shooting at an apartment building on the campus of the University of South Alabama, one person was hospitalized.
March 7: Birmingham, Alabama
One student was shot dead and another was seriously wounded after an accidental shooting during dismissal time at Huffman High School. Police wouldn’t elaborate further.
March 7: Jackson, Mississippi
A student was injured by a gunshot inside a dormitory at Jackson State University. His injuries were not life-threatening.
March 2: Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Two people were shot dead at a dormitory on the campus of Central Michigan University. The victims were not university students and police think, the incident stemmed from a domestic situation.
February 27: Norfolk, Virginia
A student at Norfolk State University was shot from an adjacent dorm room while he was doing homework. He was not seriously injured.
February 27: Itta Bena, Mississippi
A person was shot in a rec center at Mississippi Valley State University. Police said the person was not a student and the injury was not life-threatening.
February 24: Savannah, Georgia
A person was shot dead on the campus of Savannah State University. Neither the victim nor the shooter were university students, the college said.
February 14: Parkland, Florida
A 19-year-old former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killed 17 students and school staff with a rifle (AR-15). 17 more people were injured during this school shooting. The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had been expelled from the school for disciplinary issues.
February 9: Nashville
A high school student was shot five times in the parking lot of Pearl-Cohn High School.
February 5: Oxon Hill, Maryland
A high school student was injured by a gunshot in the parking lot of Oxon Hill High. The Police arrested two teens and said they are acquaintances of the victim.
February 1: Los Angeles
A 15-year-old boy was shot in the head and a 15-year-old girl shot in the wrist at Sal Castro Middle School in Los Angeles, officials said. Two other students were grazed by bullets. A 12-year-old girl was booked for negligent discharge of a firearm in that shooting, which was considered “unintentional,” Los Angeles police said.
January 31: Philadelphia
A 32-year-old man was fatally wounded in the parking lot of Lincoln High School, after a fight led to a shooting.
January 23: Benton, Kentucky
A 15-year-old student shot 16 people and killed two other 15-year-olds in the process at Marshall County High School.
January 22: Italy, Texas
A 15-year-old student was wounded in a shooting at a high school in Italy, Texas. The suspect, also 15, was quickly apprehended.
January 20: Winston Salem, North Carolina
A Winston-Salem State University football player, Najee Ali Baker, was shot to death at a party on the campus of Wake Forest University.
Following, I want to let numbers speak for themselves. Here is a list of all incidents involving firearms in 2018.
(As of: 10/10/2018)
- Total number of incidents 44,847
- Number of Deaths * 11,369
- Number of injuries * 22,205
- Number of children (age 0-11) killed or injured * 524
- Number of teens (age 12-17) killed or injured * 2,215
- Mass Shooting ** 280
- Officer involved incident/officer shot or killed ** 233
- Officer Involved Incident/subject-suspect shot or killed ** 1,676
- Home invasion ** 1,567
- Defensive use ** 1,403
- Unintentional shooting ** 1,250
* Actual number of deaths and injuries
** Number of incidents reported and verified
22,000 annual suicides not included
The number of suicides committed with guns is extremely high. About 22,000 people die each year in this way. Over 80% of them are men.
Of course, you can go into much more detail, concerning gun violence in the usa. I felt like I was milling through hundreds of statistics and articles. These confirm, that states with stricter gun laws have fewer incidents of gun violence, than states with loose legislation. But there are also exceptions such as Chicago. Again, you have to look very carefully at numbers and statistics.
Well, that was a hard topic. I really hope that the midterms will bring some positive change and that politicians will start listening to the people.