America's Gun Culture: A Cautionary Tale for Europe

A young person argues the need for continued gun control in Europe
The default profile picture

Created by Marios Stamos

Published on Sep 28, 2023
a gun on top of the us constitution
mphillips007 Getty Images

Please note: this article includes sensitive topics that some people might find difficult. Please visit our Resources Page for help.

As of August 18, at least 27,214 people have died from gun violence in the United States of America, according to the Gun Violence Archive

An average of roughly 118 deaths per day.

Another grim statistic states that there are 448 mass shootings in 2023 so far. 

That's almost 2 mass shootings per day!

There were 345 active shooting incidents in the U.S. between 2000 and 2019, resulting in over 1,023 deaths and 1,703 injuries according to the FBI

The 2017 attack in Las Vegas remains the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history, in which 58 people were killed and more than 850 were injured.

These statistics would be a wake-up call for most countries, but not for the U.S. of A. 

Australia is a good example of how a nation should react to these tragedies. 

Within 12 days of the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996, in which 35 people were killed and 23 were injured, all six Australian states agreed to enact the National Firearms Agreement.

The NFA included a buyback program and allowed only a small number of licensed individuals to own automatic and semi-automatic guns, with the stipulation that they need them for something other than personal protection

Australia went from having 13 mass shootings in the 18 years leading up to the gun law reforms in 1996, to having 2 ever since, one in 2018 and one in 2019

And while it’s obvious that gun control laws save lives, Americans aren’t interested in following suit.

The Infamous Second Amendment 

In 1791, the United States ratified the Bill of Rights

The Second Amendment states: "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."

The first part of the amendment, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State," was often interpreted to mean that the Second Amendment only protects the right to bear arms for the purpose of serving in a militia. 

However, the Supreme Court has ruled in the cases of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, unconnected with service in a militia, for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

The second part of the amendment, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," means that the government cannot pass laws that unreasonably restrict the right to own guns. 

Thankfully, the government can pass laws that regulate guns, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Gun Control Act of 1968 into law following a series of political assassinations, the murders of President John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr.

GCA68 banned the mail-order sale of guns, prohibited the sale of guns to minors, and required background checks for gun purchases. It also established a federal licensing system for gun dealers.

More recently, in 2022, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was passed during the 117th United States Congress.

The act includes a number of provisions, including, increased funding for mental health and school safety programs, thorough background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21, and partially closed the boyfriend loophole

This was the first gun legislation enacted in almost three decades

Is it All About Money?

The United States spent $876.94 billion on its military in 2022. That's more than the next 10 countries combined

Legislating against the interests of these powerful and dangerous industries is nearly impossible, as was evident in the Manchin-Toomey Amendment (2013), where most of the 46 politicians who voted against the amendment, "received substantial amounts of money from the political action committees of gun rights groups," according to the nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit research group, OpenSecrets

Firearms and Suicides 

Another cause of concern is the correlation between firearms and successful suicide attempts.

More than 700,000 people die every year due to suicide, based on information from the World Health Organization.

One in 100 deaths is by suicide. That's more deaths than HIV/AIDs, breast cancer, malaria, war, or homicide.

A 12-year study of California residents who didn't have guns at the start of the study showed that 6,691 of the 17,894 suicides that occurred in that time frame were by firearms.

Men are 8 times more likely to die by self-inflicted gun wounds if they own a gun than if they do not. Things are worse for women, with a 35-fold increase in the rates of suicide if they own a firearm.

meta-analysis that included 34 studies found firearms are the most lethal method of suicide, with a case fatality rate (CFR) of 89.7%. 

This means that for every 100 people who attempt suicide with a firearm, 89.7 will die. 

Consequences of Such Measures in Europe

According to Statistica, the number of knife crime offenses in England and Wales has increased by over 60% in the past ten years, from 4 million to 6.74 million in 2022/23. The number of knife homicides has also increased during this time, reaching 282 in 2021/22. 

It's not hard to imagine how many more casualties there would be if grabbing a gun was as easy as grabbing your cooking utensils. 

And considering that for a lot of suicide attempts, "the period between the first current thought of suicide and the actual attempt had lasted 10 minutes or less," it's even more evident why guns shouldn't be readily available. 

Discussions about legalizing gun ownership in Europe have taken place among politicians and ordinary citizens alike.

At first, it may seem like mere pandering to right-wing audiences for political gain, but gun ownership is on the rise across Europe and we should all be alarmed by this.

We need to keep fighting for a society where everyone feels safe and respected and not let any wannabe gun-singers turn us into the U.S.A. where even a minor disagreement could end up in a shootout.

Content Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VoiceBox, affiliates, and our partners. We are a nonpartisan platform amplifying youth voices on the topics they are passionate about.

More for you