The US has notoriously liberal gun laws, backed up by an entertainment culture that glorifies violence.
December 29, 2012, 17:37 DST
The past few months have given the world increasing evidence of how the United States’ gun culture has run amok. The most recent example is the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut, where a disturbed 20-year old Adam Lanza killed 27 people (including 20 children). This occurred four months after 12 people were killed and 58 injured in Aurora, Colorado, after a 24-year-old student, James Holmes, entered a movie theatre and opened fire.
The US has notoriously liberal gun laws, backed up by an entertainment culture that glorifies violence. According to the 2007 Small Arms Survey by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies, an average of 88 people out a 100 own firearms in America, making the United States the most heavily armed country in the world. The study also reported that US citizens own 270 million of the world's 875 million known firearms, and that about 4.5 million of the 8 million new guns manufactured worldwide each year are purchased in the US.
This proliferation of small arms in civilian society has caused the spread of mass violence throughout the US. According to official statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 104,852 people get shot every year in the US. This equals to the shooting of 270 people and the death of 87 every day.
Guns have always been an essential part of US culture. According to accounts in US history books, the narrative of the nation’s founding has been based upon the strength of firearms that bested and destroyed the Native Americans. In the post-9/11 world, guns have become an even more essential part of the social world. “Today something stronger than the hunting culture or nostalgia for an adventure-filled frontier past is keeping gun fetishism alive—social paranoia,” notes Rene Ciria-Cruz of New American Media. “A dread of unseen threats against one’s personal safety feeds the demand for automatic assault rifles and handguns, much to the delight of obliging firearm manufacturers.”
Gun violence is heavily promoted by the US entertainment industry, in which films, TV shows, and even commercials glorify violence and weaponry. Movies and TV serials such as Batman, Bourne Identity and Homeland focus on agencies in the national security complex, which focus on directing violence towards the suspected “Other,” usually a Muslim. Numerous social activists have attempted to spotlight the issue, including Michael Moore (documentary maker of Bowling for Columbine, which examined the link between the Columbine massacre and the presence of weapons-manufacturers like Boeing in the town).
Apart from culture predilections, Moore noted in a recent op-ed for the Huffington Post that the war on terror is a significant reason why violence is proliferating in the United States. Other developed countries consume guns and watch the same violent movies as American children, but there is a select reason why violence is pervasive in the US. “We are a country whose leaders officially sanction and carry out acts of violence as a means to often an immoral end,” notes Moore. “We invade countries who didn't attack us. We're currently using drones in a half-dozen countries, often killing civilians.”