Why sporadic gun violence is a 'uniquely American story'

By Tom Fowdy
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 8, 2022
Adjust font size:
People mourn for the victims of a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, U.S., on May 26, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

It literally only took a matter of days before the United States found itself mourning yet another sporadic act of gun violence in the form of a mass shooting. In the small city of Uvalde, Texas, a shooter attacked Robb Elementary School and killed 21 people, 19 of them children. Armed with an "assault rifle and a backpack crammed with ammunition," Salvador Ramos was just 18 years old when he initiated the attack. However, the local police failed to intervene and stop him, instead cordoning off the school and even forcefully preventing parents from attempting to rescue their children. It was not until United States border patrol units intervened on their own accord that Ramos was neutralized.

The tragedy has set off a debate that is all too familiar to U.S. citizens: What is to be done about mass school shootings? The United States witnesses more of these killings than any other country in the developed world. As outlined in a recent survey, "Mass shootings in the U.S. account for 73% of all 139 incidents occurring in developed countries between 1998 to 2019," describing how "101 attacks occurred in the U.S. during this period, leading to 816 deaths." 

Of course, the "solution" to such travesties is obvious: the imposition of gun control. However, such controls are in fact not a "straightforward" resolution in the theater of American politics, where in spite of all logic and facts, the American constitution, combined with highly conservative politicians and the gun lobby, continues to block the way for serious reforms.

The American National Rifle Association, known as the "NRA," is a powerful lobbying group backed by the arms industry, which uses its monetary power to create political resistance to gun control. Quite clearly, it is a business initiative, but it is nonetheless fortified by the U.S. constitution’s insistence on the "right to bear arms," which appeals to the American identity. 

Republicans argue that gun control is an unacceptable infringement on individual liberty by government, with a steadfast sentiment that the right to property, arms, and personal independence is the classic "American way."

However, the world has changed, and America is not the 18th- and 19th-century agrarian landowning nation it once was, with unfettered access to guns now used more to facilitate crime than for personal protection. 

Yet the debate has not moved with the country, and the NRA aggressively fortifies its position by lobbying and investing in the election of Republican politicians. For example, statistics found that the NRA had donated over $1 million dollars to dozens of Republican senators, including up to $13 million to influential figures. This dependency makes it very difficult for these politicians to stand up to the gun lobby.

As a result, each shooting event comes with a vow that things will be different, but in fact they never are. The rhetorical response of "thoughts and prayers" has transformed from something meant to express empathy for victims into a satirical and cynical expression of the inability of the U.S. state to prevent such tragedies from occurring. Limited by the constitution, successive Democrat presidents have been unable to stand up to the gun lobby and Congress and initiate proper restrictions on the sale of assault weapons and other firearms that are completely beyond the justification of "personal protection." 

In many regards, American domestic politics is in a highly dysfunctional gridlock whereby adherence to constitutional literalism combined with ultra-partisan divides makes it impossible to achieve even the most straightforward solutions to everyday issues. This is the real meaning of "American exceptionalism" – not so much in terms of moral superiority or ideology, but whereby the wholesale slaughter of schoolchildren is deemed a normal, frequent, and unpreventable occurrence. Meanwhile, the rest of the world looks on baffled, confused, and horrified. 

Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. He writes on topics pertaining to China, the DPRK, Britain and the U.S. For more information please visit: 


Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

If you would like to contribute, please contact us at opinion@china.org.cn. 

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter