On the night of April 28, 2023, in Cleveland Texas, a sleepy community, 50 miles north of where my family and I live, bullet-riddled bodies of five human beings, including an eight-year-old boy lay lifeless, cut down in the most gruesome way. Their only sin was asking for a night of peace, but their request was met with the deafening sound of gunfire from a neighbor brandishing an AR-15. This senseless tragedy, is yet another grim victory for the National Rifle Association (NRA)’s beloved “America’s Rifle,” a killer machine that has been responsible for countless devastating incidents of mass murder like this one.
For decades, AR-15 has been the go-to assault rifle for the U.S. military in every major conflict since Vietnam. With its ability to fire dozens, if not hundreds, of rounds in rapid succession, the AR was designed to inflict maximum casualties in the shortest amount of time. In recent years, however, the NRA and US gun-makers have successfully transformed this deadly weapon into a symbol of civilian pride and independence.
By some warped logic, owning an AR-15 has somehow become synonymous with patriotism, and a fundamental right, fiercely protected by the Second Amendment. Sadly, this glorification of a weapon of mass destruction has had devastating consequences. From Aurora to Newtown, Orlando, San Bernardino, and now Cleveland, the monster leaves a trail of tragedy and despair in its wake, casting a dark shadow on our nation’s future.
For the American right and many in the Republican Party, a common refrain is that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. But this overly simplistic view overlooks the complexity of the issue at hand. Mental illness is often cited as the root of gun violence, but this ignores the fact that many countries with similar rates of mental illness don’t have the same levels of gun violence as the United States. Not even close. So far this year, there have been at least 160 mass shootings across the US. In each of the last three years, there have been more than 600 mass shootings, almost two a day on average, according to figures from the Gun Violence Archive.
While it is true that some individuals who commit acts of gun violence may have mental health issues, research suggests that this is not the sole or even primary factor that contributes to gun violence in the US. In fact, studies have found that individuals with mental illness are actually more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence.
It’s high time America confronts the uncomfortable truth – the availability of firearms plays a significant role in making it easier for individuals to carry out violent acts. The nation can no longer ignore this stark reality. It’s worth noting that other developed countries with significantly lower rates of gun violence have implemented strict gun control laws and have tackled the underlying social and economic factors that fuel violence.
With an estimated 393 million guns currently in circulation in the United States, there is a crucial need to have honest conversations about responsible gun ownership and sensible gun control measures that can help keep America safe. The idea that any discussion about gun control is seen by the American right and second amendment champions as a subterranian effort to confiscate all guns from responsible gun owners is a baseless fear-mongering tactic propagated by conscienceless gun lobbyists.
It’s no secret that America’s political landscape has become a battlefield of division, where civil discourse is all but extinct. Instead, the country is faced with a reality where political super PACs, corporate media, and special interests all peddle divisive conspiracy theories for their own gain. Rather than seeking out truth and understanding, Americans have become fixated on winning at all costs, regardless of whether their side has a superior argument or not.
The United States faces a critical internal threat that’s arguably more significant than external forces like China or Russia – political polarization, the breakdown of civil discourse, and the erosion of trust between different segments of society. This toxic environment has made it difficult for lawmakers from both sides of the isle to collaborate and pass legislation for the betterment of the country.
The situation is made worse by the rise of extremist ideologies, hate crimes, and domestic terrorism that threaten to destabilize the nation. These forces are tearing apart the social fabric of the country, eroding the foundations of democracy, and undermining the values of equality, freedom, and justice that America was founded upon.
The issue of gun violence in the United States goes beyond public safety, it poses existential threats that must be addressed expeditiously. Failure to do so will continue to erode the country’s reputation on the global stage, and undermine its efforts to promote democracy and human rights around the world.
Everyday, this epidemic destroys countless lives. It’s time for America to rise to the occasion and show real leadership, putting aside political affiliations and ideological biases to find viable solutions. The crisis goes beyond partisan politics – it’s not about red or blue, left or right. It’s about every American’s right to live in a safe and secure society.
If the United States does not find a way out of the current political gridlock, the country will continue to face significant challenges that threaten its long-term stability, security, and prosperity.
Osmund Agbo writes from Houston, Texas. Email: [email protected]