No human rights for those gunned down in US
Published: Mar 29, 2023 10:43 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

On Monday, a heavily armed assailant fatally shot three children and three adults at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee.

I really want to say to those experts who research on gun violence in the US: never again explain such a tragic event within the historical tradition of American gun culture repeatedly.

Why is it that in the US, mass shootings are a matter of culture and tradition and thus have a reasonable interpretation, and no one will make the government accountable for it? If the same tragedy happens in other countries, it would probably become a matter of human rights, humanitarianism, and government incompetence, and even require American hegemony to guide and intervene.

Does the importance of human life carry different weights depending on the different political systems?

President Joe Biden said that gun violence "pierced the soul of this nation," but the world is not looking at what he is saying but at what he can do for the world's No.1 democracy and for a country that claims to make human rights its top priority.

In fact, it does not matter how Washington defines democracy or human rights. What matters is that only respect for life is the ultimate goal reached through these two, which is the supreme standard.

Such things repeatedly happen in the US; no matter what justification you have to explain it, it is violent damage to democracy.

The frequency of mass shootings in the US has increased dramatically in recent years. Just up until March, there have been more than 100 mass shootings in the US this year, according to the latest data from the Gun Violence Archive. More than 7,000 people have died from shootings, including more than 4,000 who died in homicides and more than 5,000 who died in suicides. This is no less than a small-scale local war that has occurred. It took just 60 days or so to break the record of 100 mass shootings this year, the earliest point in a decade to reach triple digits.

There is no democracy or human rights for people who live in the shadow of gun violence.

After every shooting, the US police or media always try every possible way to inquire about the mental illness of these shooters, as if this will lead to the incident's root cause. In fact, although some of these shooters have psychological problems, what's behind the mass shootings are social reasons, such as the widening gap between the rich and the poor and religious or sectarian hostility or resentment against foreign immigrants. In fact, the division of American society also provides a breeding ground for the shooters' distorted psychology.

The proliferation of gun violence is also a serious political problem. Although more and more people support gun control, the polarization of the US bipartisan politics, interest groups, and other factors lead to "no cure." The two parties in the US on the issue of gun control have serious differences in gun control legislation because of party disputes and interest groups to obstruct and promote difficulty. In 2016, the National Rifle Association spent more than $50 million to back Donald Trump and several Republican Senate candidates. The failure of the US federal government to control guns shows us another side of the American political system. 

Without looking at the existing social and institutional problems in the US, it will never be possible to explain why such gun violence continues. To make a simple comparison, the number of gun owners in Switzerland is also high, but why have there been very few mass shootings in the past 20 years?

We do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of the US. Still, shooting is an act of terrorism, an inhumane and undemocratic act, a serious violation of human rights, and a political issue related to the system as a whole. It cannot be measured and explained by a different standard just because the American tradition and political system differ or because Washington claims to have raised the flag of democracy and human rights higher than any other country

Next time when US officials preach democracy and human rights to other countries, I hope they will first think about those who died at the gunpoint of their own people.

The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn. Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina