The United States, which has long held itself up as a paragon of democracy and human rights, has seen its record on both fronts steadily worsen in recent years. This is illustrated by a number of issues, including the rise of indiscriminate firing by gunmen, racial and ethnic discrimination, and the rising use of police brutality.
The issue has once again got the media attention as a gunmen entered the University of Nevada and killed three persons, critically wounding another before being gunned down by the law enforcement authorities. This is the 39th incident of mass-shooting in the US this year- a record. The prior highest number of mass-shooting incidents took place in the last year with 36 incidents. The upward trajectory in mass shooting breaking records two consecutive year suggests the crying need for stricter gun laws in the US to ensure the most basic human rights, right to life. But it is hardly likely to be.
Politicians-business collusion stifles gun control. Gun interest groups in the US have lobbied powerfully for their interests. The U.S. government has eased gun control, causing many gun deaths. On July 3, 2022, Bloomberg News reported that the Supreme Court’s June 23 “Bruen case” overturned half a century of gun regulation in New York and six other states. On October 28, 2022, the New York Times reported that a Texas federal court declared a state statute preventing adults under 21 from possessing pistols illegal. Nearly half of U.S. states have loosened gun laws. “In the past two or three decades, the country has been moving very clearly and dramatically toward loosening gun-carrying laws,” said University of Washington scholar Ali Rowhani-Rahbar. American historian Pamela Haag’s book “The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture” describes weapons as an industrial chain that “begins with production line and ends with the death of victims.” “The tragedy of gun violence in America has its roots in the secular gun trade.”
Americans top the world in gun possession, homicide, and mass shootings. US mass shootings have continued in recent years. Gun ownership and mass shootings have increased since US gun restrictions were relaxed, according to a British Medical Journal study. With less than 5% of the world’s population, the US holds 46% of civilian weapons. Gun Violence Archive reports that mass shootings in the US have increased considerably. Gun violence killed 40161 and injured 34236 in 2023. America’s firearm homicide rate is eight times higher than Canada’s, 13 times France’s, and 23 times Australia’s. One can now speak of gun violence as an “American disease.”
Like gun violence, police brutality has also increased. According to Mapping Police Violence, 1082 Americans died from police violence in 2023. The year has only 14 days without police killings. Stop checks and nonviolent crimes account for most police killings. Only seldom are police accused of excessive force. Police killings between 2013 and 2022 involved 98.1 percent uncharged officers. On June 27, 2022, Akron police shot and killed unarmed 25-year-old African American Jayland Walker over 90 times. A preliminary medical evaluation found almost 40 shot wounds on Walker. Akron had three police shootings between December 2021 and June 2022.
Racial discrimination is rising as ethnic minorities are targeted. CNN reported on Aug. 30, 2022, that 82 percent of more than 3,000 African Americans interviewed said racism is a major problem for African descendants in the US, 79 percent said they have experienced racial discrimination, and 68 percent said it is the main reason many Black people can’t succeed. On March 29, 2022, Ipsos found that 65% of Latino Americans have encountered racist comments in the past year. The U.S. National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum reported on March 30, 2022, that 74 percent of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women reported experiencing racism and/or discrimination in the past year, with 53 percent reporting the perpetrator was a stranger and 47 percent reporting the incidents occurred in public places like restaurants and shopping centers.
According to a report by the Center for the report of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, hate crimes increased by double-digits in 15 major U.S. cities between 2020 and 2021 and by around 5% until August 2022. In “Hate crime reports surge” on Oct. 21, 2022, the Chicago Sun-Times reported 120 hate crimes registered by the Chicago Police Department as of Oct. 18. Payton Gendron, a 19-year-old White gunman, killed 10 African Americans and wounded three others at a Buffalo supermarket on May 14, 2022. For live streaming, the killer filmed the attack. According to a February 2023 report by the US-based Anti-Defamation League, the number of U.S. mass killings spiked over the past decade, and all extremist killings in 2022 were linked to right-wing extremism, with a high number linked to white supremacy. “It is not an exaggeration to say that we live in an age of extremist mass killings.”
Drug misuse deaths are rising as life expectancy is falling. The National Center for Health Statistics under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in August 2022 that average life expectancy in the US declined by 2.7 years to 76.1 years from 2019 to 2021, the lowest since 1996. Drug and substance misuse flourishes because interest organizations and politicians swap influence for money. More than 100,000 Americans die from drug and substance misuse each year, a sharp rise. A major public health issue in America is substance abuse.
US military aggression and unilateral sanctions have caused humanitarian crises. In the name of “anti-terrorism,” the US has conducted military operations in 85 countries since the 21st century, killing at least 929,000 civilians and displacing 38 million. The US has imposed more unilateral sanctions than any other country and still has restrictions against more than 20 countries, preventing them from providing vital food and medicine. Immigration has become a politicized issue, and large-scale immigration farces have caused severe xenophobia and brutal treatment of immigrants. In 2022, approximately 2.4 million migrants were arrested at the nation’s border, and 856 immigrants died at its southern border, a record.
The deteriorating US human rights situation is alarming. Racial and ethnic discrimination, police brutality, and gun violence must be addressed by the US government. A comprehensive anti-discrimination law that protects all Americans from race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and other discriminations should be passed by the US government to improve human rights. Reform gun laws to hold police accountable, including prosecuting those who use excessive force or kill unarmed individuals, banning assault weapons, universal background checks, and ending gun manufacturer legal immunity.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.