Gun violence sees ‘no solution in polarized US’ amid more mass shootings
Published: Apr 17, 2023 08:56 PM
Tug of gun control. Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Tug of gun control. Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Gun violence is always a critical topic during US elections, but Chinese experts see little hope in the US political circle to address the issue due to its historical complexity and the extremely polarized stances of Democrats and Republicans, even as gun-related tragedies continue to occur in the country. 

In the latest reflection of the miserable situation, over the past weekend, Alabama witnessed another mass shooting tragedy in the US, with four deaths and 28 injuries, while the potential Republican presidential candidates still reportedly rejected the idea of more restrictions that could curb the bloodshed as they spoke at the annual gathering of the National Rifle Association (NRA). 

The Alabama shooting happened the same day that shots were fired into a crowd at a park in Louisville, Kentucky. Two people were killed and four others were wounded. 

That incident was the city's second mass shooting in less than a week. On April 10, a gunman killed five people and injured several others at Louisville's Old National Bank, CNN noted. 

Across the US, a total of 157 mass shootings have happened this year as of April 16, indicating an average of 1.48 cases per day during this period, according to data released by the Gun Violence Archive (GVA).    

These shootings have resulted in 12,358 deaths - with 413 aged under 17 - and 9,600 injuries, according to data updated on Monday on the website.  

But former president Donald Trump still insisted that "this is not a gun problem" in his speech on Friday afternoon during the NRA annual gathering. Mike Pence, Trump's vice president, also toed the line by saying that people should "stop trampling on the God-given rights of the American people every time a tragedy happens," according to a New York Times report on Friday. 

Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social, pointed out that the issue has been totally politicalized and become a label of partisan conflict in the US. 

"In the US, the Democrats have to call for banning or managing guns, while Republicans will definitely stress freedom in owning guns. It's as if they are not Democrats or Republicans if they do not stick to the party's stance," Lü told the Global Times on Monday.

Such polarized stances have resulted in there being no space for the two parties to negotiate over the issue, which Lü deemed as the main reason why the problem of gun violence in the US cannot be resolved at its root. 

The is a typical systemic problem of the US, Lü noted. 

During the NRA annual meeting, photos of children handling firearms also made the rounds on US social media platforms over the weekend.

Even though the association said that they had rendered the guns at the exhibitions incapable of being fired, gun control advocates slammed the scene as saying "responsible gun owners and parents would not allow a child to put their finger on a firearm's trigger while pointing it at other people - even if they're props," the Insider reported. 

Yuan Zheng, deputy director and a senior fellow of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that even though gun violence is always a critical issue during the US elections, they will not play a decisive role. 

Gun violence is a complicated issue combining historical and partisan elements as well as social factors. The current polarized US politics is making it even more difficult to solve the problem, which is actually pathetic and indicates the government's lack of capability, according to Yuan.  

The US government's inability to address this "mission impossible" has laid bare the decline of US governance capacity, according to a report China released in February revealing the truth and facts of rampant US gun violence.

In June 2022, US President Joe Biden signed into law what was reportedly the most sweeping legislation aimed at preventing gun violence in 30 years.

Biden called the signing of the legislation a "monumental day" and said it was proof that Democrats and Republicans could find common ground on important issues. "God willing, it's going to save a lot of lives," he said.

However, experts see this so-called gun deal as one that just "scratches the surface", as it falls short of the essence of gun control measures expected by the public, such as prohibiting the manufacture, transfer and possession of semi-automatic assault weapons and the transfer and possession of large-capacity ammunition feeding devices; and a change to the age at which a person needs to be to purchase an assault-style weapon. 

They deemed the agreement as being just a joint "political show" put on by the Democrats and Republicans to trick the public and win votes during the midterm elections amid an outcry over gun violence following the killing of at least 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, 2022.