gun violence

The weekend of 4 July was supposed to be a celebratory time in the USA as celebrations of freedom day were being held all over the country and fireworks celebrations were being organized. But this turned out to be actually a nightmarish time for a very large number of people as random shooting incidents and brawls in many parts of the country turned this into what the Newsweek described as perhaps the most violent weekend in the recent history of the country.

In about 550 shooting incidents from Friday to Monday, spread over around 78 hours, nearly 235 people were killed and around 600 were injured. Organizations like the Gun Violence Archives struggled to cope with the records which increased by the hour. Major shootings took place in Chicago, Texas, Virginia and Ohio. Heavily policed cities like the New York and Washington DC were also the scenes of this ugly violence. Even policemen were targeted and some were injured.

What is surprising is that many of these appear to be just random acts of violence in which trigger-happy persons shoot without much thought about the consequences of their actions. Such shootings have been recorded even during earlier years of freedom day celebrations, but what happened this year was much in excess of what had been experienced earlier.

Perhaps a combination of factors worked together to cause the mayhem. One factor may be that the gun ownership has been wrongly made into a fierce personal freedom issue in the USA by certain sections of people, and frustration levels have been high among these sections due to a complex of factors. Probably on Freedom Day they feel more inclined to be more free with their guns!

Secondly a culture of guns starting with childhood video games has made several persons very trigger-happy and they have an inclination to use guns very frequently.

Thirdly the random acts of shootings and the too many brawls also indicate towards the possibility of several shootings and much of violence taking place under the influence of alcohol ( or other drugs or stimulants). A number of studies have already established close links between gun violence ( or other violence and crime ) on the one hand and alcohol consumption. On festive occasions some people tend to consume more alcohol and this together with trigger-happy disposition may lead to more gun-violence incidents, which are high even on normal days as it is.

The climate change induced heat wave conditions in many parts of the country may also be a contributory factor in all this, as some experienced persons in responsible positions had warned that this may lead to aggravation of violent crime.

Whatever may be the causative factors, the actual impact has been more like an invasion with several people seeking safety in isolation. Previous studies have shown that apart from the recorded deaths and injuries, such violent out-breaks expose many people to longer-term serious health problems like post traumatic distress disorder which reportedly affects nearly 8 million people in the USA.
A better understanding of causes and adverse impacts should contribute to effective steps for reducing such tragedies.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Man Over Machine ( Gandhian Ideas For Our Times) and Protecting Earth For Children.

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