Growing Gun Violence in the United States

By Barry Sheppard

In June, the Supreme Court struck down a New York law that restricted carrying guns in public. Since then, 38 states have some form of open carry laws, and legislatures in others are preparing to do the same.

Already known for its “Wild West” gun culture, this only increases gun violence in the United States.

Now, anyone may be carrying and other people have to take that into account. Some are acquiring guns in self defense as a result.

Even in the few states that don’t yet have such laws, it is easy to get guns legally and there are large numbers of illegal guns. Many people carry them in public, including for self defense from others who may be carrying.

Only in Hawaii must all guns be registered. In Michigan pistol purchases must be registered. California requires only .50 calibre rifles and assault weapons like AR-15s to be registered. In Maryland, New Jersey and New York only assault weapons must be registered.

Among rich countries, the U.S. is an outlier in the number of homicides by guns by far. Figures updated in the spring of 2022 show that per 100,000 inhabitants, 4.12 gun homicides in the U.S. The next highest is Canada, with 0.5. In Western Europe, Portugal with 0.4; Italy, 0.35; Belgium, 0.34; France,0.32; Germany, 0.08; the UK, 0.04. Australia is at 0.18 and Japan at 0.02.

Shootings and killings are frequent in all states. In the San Francisco Bay Area every day local TV stations report one or more shootings, many resulting in deaths.

There have been 12 mass shootings in the U.S. this year so far, using the FBI’s definition of four or more killed. Using CNN’s and the New York Times’ definition of four or more shot, there have been 606 mass shootings.

In the weeks leading up to the November 25 Thanksgiving holiday, the Times lists the four most noted. Four students at a Philadelphia High School were shot by a drive-by shooter after they were dismissed to go home for the holiday.

On November 19, five people were killed at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with an AR-15 assault rifle. Club Q is known as a haven for the LGBTQ community. That night there was a ‘drag show’ attended by the public, including ‘straight’ friends who were among those killed. Many more would have been killed except for a man with military training who tackled and subdued the shooter.

On November 13, three student football players, were killed at the University of Virginia. They were on a bus returning from a play they had been assigned to see by a teacher.

In Chesapeake, also in Virginia, on November 22, six workers on the night shift at a Walmart store were killed by the night manager at the store, who went into the break room where the workers were. He used a hand gun he had bought that day, before turning it on himself.

Like the club Q shooting, some have been classified as ‘hate crimes,’ a term used for crimes committed against people for who they are, including for their race, religion, or for being LGBTQ.

Victims have been Blacks, Latinos, Asians and other non-whites. Others have been Jewish people at synagogues, and Muslims. White nationalists, emboldened by the rhetoric and policies of far-right Republicans, have been responsible for these shootings.

That frictions in the workplace, as in the Walmart store, have resulted in mass shootings can be seen as part of increasing acceptance that guns are seen as appropriate means to settle such disputes.

Others, such as the killing of the football players, are for unknown reasons, but also result from the gun culture.

One group of violent crimes, often with guns, against people for who they are, have not been called ‘hate crimes’ but they should be. That is the violence committed against women for their gender, including domestic violence and rape.

The November 26 New York Times ran a large article on armed white nationalist demonstrators at protests since 2020, when the number of such incidents exploded against public health measures to deal with the Corona virus and against the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that summer.

It might seem weird that public health measures would be targeted, but the far right charged that the pandemic didn’t exist or was not serious.

This year, the targets of these protests, that included armed contingents, are most likely to be motivated by abortion and LGBTQ issues, the Times reported. There were spikes in such demonstrations at gay pride events and after the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the right to abortion.

In June armed contingents at demonstrations amounted to nearly one a day.

In one of these a former Republican state legislator led a group protesting a gay pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Juneteenth is celebrated as the anniversary of the abolition of slavery finally reaching Texas. In Franklin, Tennessee, men with guns interrupted a Juneteenth celebration, handing out fliers claiming that white people were being replaced.

In July, armed men confronted Beto O’Rourke, Democratic candidate for governor of Texas, at Whitesboro, blocking him at a campaign stop in the city.

At the Museum of Science and Technology in Memphis, Tennessee, armed protesters led to the cancellation of an LGBTQ event in September. It was a dance that capped a summer-long series on the history of the LGBTQ community in the South.

In October, Proud Boys with guns joined a rally in Nashville, Tennessee, where far right Republicans spoke against transgender medical treatment for minors.

The Times analyzed some 700 armed demonstrations since 2020, and found that 77 percent were by people with far right views, not counting armed demonstrators at indoor meetings, such as school boards, where groups like the Proud Boys oppose school curriculums including books and discussion of the history of racial oppression and LGBTQ people.

There have been armed people intimidating libraries not to carry such books.

In some instances, where targets were informed of pending armed demonstrations, armed defense guards were formed.

Half of the armed demonstrations since 2020 occurred in 10 states with open carry laws: Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas Virginia and Washington.

With the Supreme Court ruling and open carry laws sweeping the country, many more states are seeing and will see such armed demonstrations.

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