On October 1st news headlines emerging from the US rocked the world. Despite the fact that America has gained the lamentable reputation for being synonymous with mass shootings, news of the Las Vegas massacre left audiences all over the globe stunned. This was America’s deadliest shooting. Sadly, this tragic incident provides just a glimpse of the current situation in the US. The land of the free, a place of opportunity and a platform for progression has become a crime scene, and people are increasingly worried for their safety.
Gun crime: the situation in the US
If you’re not American, you probably come across reports of shootings in the US when they grab the attention of major news outlets. We all know about Las Vegas, and most of us can remember where we were when news of the Sandy Hook massacre broke, but what about the hundreds of incidents you never really hear about? If you take the time to delve deeper and look at the statistics, it’s increasingly evident that the USA is not bulletproof. Extremism and terrorists from abroad may be a threat, but it’s impossible to ignore problems closer to home.
Americans own more than half of the world’s civilian guns and gun ownership per capita is the highest in the world. According to the PEW Center, around 40 percent of people own a gun or live in a house where there is a gun on-site. The US is also home to more than 30 percent of the world’s mass shooters, despite the fact that its population makes up less than 5% of the global population. Gun-related murders are 30 times higher than in the UK.
A double-edged sword
Mass shootings like the Las Vegas tragedy prompt calls for more stringent firearm laws, but there’s also a tendency for more people to want to get hold of guns in the aftermath of shootings. There has been an outcry for tighter regulation, and many have called for legislation similar to that imposed by Australian ministers in 1996 after a mass shooting in Port Arthur. Less than two weeks after that incident, tougher measures were imposed across the country, and there hasn’t been a mass shooting since. The situation is more complex in the US. Australia’s government reacted after four incidents between 1987 and 1996 while in the US, there were 372 mass shootings in 2015 alone.
What happens next?
Many experts and politicians, including President Obama, have pointed to Australia as an example to follow, but it’s not as straightforward as following a template. In the US, it’s legal to have a gun for self-protection purposes, and this is not the case in Australia. The National Rifle Association also has a powerful influence, and despite the prevalence of shootings, many people still support the notion that they have a basic human right to own a gun. In spite of tragedies, more than a third of people said the country would be safer if more people had guns.
America is often considered a land of opportunity, but tragically, it seems to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. As the issue of gun crime rises to the surface once again, it remains to be seen what the future holds. Many fear that calls for tighter controls will once again fall on deaf ears and the world is braced for more bad news.