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The US goes ballistic: America’s gun epidemic | Gun Violence

Whereas in Havana this previous February, I made the acquaintance of a person in his mid-fifties, who hailed from the japanese Cuban province of Guantánamo and who in 1986 had endeavoured unsuccessfully to sail on a makeshift boat from Cuba to the so-called “land of the free”: my very own homeland, the USA.

Apprehended by Cuban authorities, he was sentenced to a few years of labour on a espresso farm – the place, he stated, he was handled in a fairly civilised style, and the place he was capable of put his mechanical engineering diploma to make use of by designing a espresso de-pulping machine.

Though his love for the Cuban system of presidency has hardly grown over the previous three-and-a-half a long time, the person declared that the one place on Cuban soil the place you’ll discover issues like institutionalised torture was the US army base at Guantánamo Bay. Despite his personal tried abandonment of the nation in favour of the epicentre of world capitalism, he maintained that there have been sure priceless perks that corresponded to life in Cuba, together with free healthcare and the liberty to go to high school or stroll down the road with out the concern of being shot.

To make certain, US politicians and different involved residents have expended important vitality over time neurotically portraying Cuba as a uniquely oppressive nation and a menace to worldwide safety. The diminutive island even occupies one out of solely 4 spots on the official US listing of State Sponsors of Terrorism – regardless that Cuba has by no means, say, bombed the hell out of civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan, and regardless that Guantánamo constitutes a type of terror in its personal proper.

However whereas the US authorities casts nearly every little thing the US itself does as being within the title of “freedom” and “safety”, the very fact of the matter is that Cubans have entry to a literal safety that’s unavailable to residents of the imperial superpower. Once I googled “mass shootings in Cuba”, for instance, the highest consequence was an April 2020 Related Press article about 42-year-old Alexander Alazo of Aubrey, Texas, who, armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, had opened fireplace on the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC. As per the police writeup, the episode was a “suspected hate crime”.

And but Mr Alazo’s escapades are merely the tip of the iceberg – or the tip of the rifle barrel – in terms of gun violence in the USA, humanity’s self-appointed position mannequin. Over Easter weekend this April, CNN reported “a minimum of 10 mass shootings” throughout the nation – with the time period “mass capturing” referring to an “incident during which 4 or extra individuals are shot, not together with the shooter”.

The Easter tally comprised two mass shootings within the state of Pennsylvania alone, certainly one of which transpired at a home celebration in Pittsburgh and resulted within the deaths of two 17-year-olds, along with quite a few accidents. South Carolina hosted two mass shootings of its personal, one at a shopping center within the state capital of Columbia that left nine people with bullet wounds. Mass shootings additionally happened in California, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New York, and Oregon.

This notably bloody weekend got here simply days after 10 folks have been shot within the subway in Brooklyn on April 12. Rewind just a few weeks to CNN headlines from March – eg, “At the least 8 folks have been killed and greater than 60 damage in mass shootings throughout the US this weekend”, printed March 21 – and there does certainly seem like a pattern. Quick ahead once more to Could, and the Washington, DC-based Gun Violence Archive had already recorded no fewer than 173 mass shootings this yr as of Could 2.

{The catalogue} of horrifying statistics goes on. In keeping with the US authorities’s Centres for Illness Management and Prevention, the nation registered 45,222 “firearm deaths” in 2020 – much more than the 40,698 “motorcar site visitors deaths”. This was the very best variety of gun-related deaths on file for any single yr so far, and represented a 43 p.c enhance from 2010.

Of the 45,222 deaths, roughly 54 p.c have been suicides and 43 p.c homicides. The rest, the Pew Analysis Centre notes, had both been “unintentional”, entailed “undetermined circumstances”, or “concerned legislation enforcement” personnel – who definitely carried out their justifiable share of extrajudicial killings of Black People and others in 2020. How’s that for “safety”?

A latest providing on the BBC Information web site, titled: America’s gun tradition – in seven charts, reminisces sarcastically: “It was over 50 years in the past when the administration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared that ‘firearms are a main instrument of dying in American crime’ and that it was ‘primarily the results of our tradition’s informal angle in direction of firearms and its heritage of the armed, self-reliant citizen’.” In actuality, the quote – which truly describes firearms as an “instrument of harm and dying”, not simply dying – occurred within the context of a 1969 congressional subcommittee listening to on firearms laws beneath Johnson’s successor Richard Nixon.

Media fact-checking incompetence apart, the quote stays legitimate – and the entire “informal angle” has little doubt proved useful over the course of latest US historical past in justifying massacres of civilians from Vietnam to Iraq and past. Naturally, nonetheless, the US political institution has little curiosity in connecting the dots – or the bullet holes, because the case could also be – between militarised sociopathy overseas and at house.

The “armed, self-reliant citizen” has in the meantime grow to be ever extra so, particularly as varied states have enacted ingenious legal guidelines permitting residents to hold handguns with no allow or coaching. As of 2017, there have been already “extra weapons than folks” within the US, the Washington Put up reported, citing a examine in line with which there have been an “estimated 120.5 weapons for each 100 residents” – by far essentially the most outrageous ratio on the planet.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, prompting a surge in US firearms purchases – as a result of what higher than a gun to guard you from a virus and basic existential uncertainty? The attendant spike in gun-related suicides and homicides served to underscore how rather more preferable it might be – by way of, you realize, human life – for the US state to put money into the psychological and bodily wellbeing of its inhabitants moderately than cultivating a cutthroat capitalist panorama that makes of us go ballistic.

After all, a sick society is finally extra worthwhile for such pillars of US capitalism because the arms and pharmaceutical industries, whose personal safety definitively trumps the form of safety described by my Cuban interlocutor – like the liberty to not be shot whereas going about your every day enterprise.

I skilled an inkling of this illness firsthand rising up within the US, the place I used to be taught that life was a contest versus a communal collaboration – a dog-eat-dog association that intermittently spawned in me emotions of hysteria, isolation, impotence, and directionless rage. Many years earlier than the pandemic exacerbated issues, I disentangled myself from the hostile surroundings by merely abandoning the nation – and but it isn’t tough to see how a violent and completely alienating system may also elicit extra violent particular person responses.

On March 23, 2022, following a single weekend that featured “a minimum of 9 mass capturing occasions” throughout the US, the New York Instances warned that it was “an ominous harbinger for the hotter summer time months forward, which is usually America’s most violent time”. However as occasions get ever extra violent, it isn’t simply this summer time that now we have to dread.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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