Gun Violence is a Global Gundemic!

Shots fired…bullets flying…innocent people caught in the crossfire dying! Is this a hook from a hip-hop song? No, it’s reality. Individuals – male and female, from babies to the elderly – are injured or killed because of gun violence that continues to increase around cities. It’s a story that feels like it’s on repeat and has become a normal occurrence. I declare gun violence is a global Gundemic!

In October 2022, I attended a funeral for the son of my former co-worker; a 19-year-old a New York City paraprofessional teacher. Ethan had recently started this new job with the Department of Education when he was fatally shot in the head about a block from the elementary school where he worked, just a few blocks from his home.

According to authorities, Ethan was on his way home around 3 p.m. when another adolescent fired four times at him from across the street. Ethan was hit in the head by one of the bullets;19-year-old Javier Oates was apprehended and charged with murder, criminal possession of a weapon, and criminal use of a firearm. When will it all end? Perhaps never! It’s a global gundemic.

Gun Laws

Gun violence is an ongoing concern all over the world, even in the world’s safest countries, and in countries where guns are illegal. Gun laws in the United States regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition. State laws and the laws of the District of Columbia and of the U.S. territories vary considerably, and are independent of existing federal firearms laws, although they are sometimes broader or more limited in scope than the federal laws.

Forty-four states have a provision in their constitutions similar to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to keep and bear arms. Exceptions are California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York.

Eight states — California, Hawaii, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey — have the strictest gun laws and the lowest rates of gun violence. Thirteen states — Kansas, Alaska, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, Arizona, Oklahoma, Wyoming, South Dakota, Arkansas, Montana, Idaho and Mississippi — are categorized as national failures for having the weakest gun laws and the highest rates of gun violence.

Data shows that states with stricter gun laws generally experience lower firearm mortality rates. Research suggests that states with weaker gun laws generally see greater rates of gun violence.

The Global Gundemic!

No one is immune to gun violence. Its daily tragedies impact lives worldwide. More than 500 people die every day because of gun violence. It is a contemporary global human rights issue that threatens our most fundamental human right, the right to life.

Like the pandemic, the gundemic has created fear in people. Many are afraid to go outside and have become prisoners in their own homes. Yet even in one’s own home, a stray bullet through a window could occur. Unlike the pandemic, there are no masks for protection and no vaccine.

Fear of gun violence can also have a negative impact on people’s right to education or health care, when they become too afraid to attend school or go to the doctor. These services may not fully function due to increased firearm violence. Sound familiar? This fear is exactly what people felt at the height of the pandemic, and still feel three years later at the height of this global gundemic!

A Tale of Two Cities: Gun Homicide Stats in Washington, D.C. and New York

In the wake of the pandemic, cities across the world have seen jumps in violent crime. According to a 2021 report shared by EveryStat.org, in Washington, D.C., every year, an average of 109 people die by gun homicides and 192 are wounded by gun assaults—a rate of 14.2 homicides and 27.7 assaults per 100,000 people. Did you know that the District of Columbia has the 2nd-highest rate of gun homicides and gun assaults in the US? In the District of Columbia, 78% of all homicides involve a gun, compared to 75% nationwide.

Washington, D.C. has crossed the grim threshold of 100 homicides so far in 2022, the earliest that mark has been reached since 2003. Crime data on the department’s website shows that homicides in 2022 have increased 16%, over last year’s 14% increase, which saw a record-high number of homicides, with 226 homicides committed in 2021. 

As for New York City, I don’t believe it’s any safer. For the month of September 2022, the number of overall shooting incidents decreased citywide by 13.2%. That has translated to high profile hate crimes and attacks on public transit. Perhaps it’s me — gun violence doesn’t appear to have decreased because there are news reports every day on shootings that occurred throughout the five boroughs.

For many cities and states, when it comes to gun violence, there is a race disparity. There is no surprise that race is significant when looking into the victims and perpetrators of gun violence in America, both on a state-by-state basis and nationwide. An unfortunate and backward truth is that young Black males are the most likely people to experience gun violence. It is fifteen times more likely that a Black male will be the victim of a gun-related violent attack than their white, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, and other counterparts. No matter the situation, it always appears that violence by or against Black people outrank other races.

The Bottom Line: 

Previously I asked if there’s a solution to end gun violence. Who bears the responsibility towards change? The reality is that states may not be able to eradicate gun violence, but there are ways that policy changes improve the rates of violence while respecting the rights of legal, safe gun ownership and use.

Each state has an obligation to maximize the protection of human rights, creating the safest possible environment for its people. Failure to exercise adequate control over the possession and use of firearms, in the face of persistent gun violence, could amount to a breach of that state’s obligation under international human rights law. In this gundemic, states must protect human rights!

It’s important for policymakers to understand the factors that contribute to gun violence on a hyper-local level because research on neighborhood variation helps pinpoint the potentially changeable factors that may cause violence. At a higher level, universal background checks, background checks for ammunition purchases, and identification requirements for firearms could have the greatest impact on firearm mortality, according to a 2016 report published in The Lancet. Research estimates suggest that universal background checks could reduce the national firearm mortality rate from 10.35 to 4.46 deaths per 100,000 people. Background checks for ammunition purchases could reduce it to 1.99 deaths per 100 ,000 people and identification requirements could lower it to 1.81 deaths per 100,000 people.

Many gun violence researchers support a public health approach to gun violence prevention that requires background checks, licenses to purchase handguns and bans on assault-style weapons. There are also no limits on the amount of ammunition someone can purchase. I believe there should be more regulations for these purchases. Background checks on ammunition purchases could help limit gun activity. Introducing restrictions on how much ammunition someone can buy could potentially help further curb gun violence.

In Closing

Putting things into perspective, it hurts and frustrates me every time I hear a gun violence story. I am fed up with being a prisoner of this world because of gun violence. Tired of being afraid to go to the store. Do I need to add a suit of armor to my wardrobe? Possible solutions to this global gundemic have been shared. It’s time for action!

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