No matter what your position on gun rights and gun control, most people can at least agree that the United States has a pretty serious gun violence problem.
As our latest Above the Noise video points out, the rate of gun-related suicides and homicides in this country far outpaces that of any other high-income nation in the world. Every year roughly 35,000 people are killed by firearms (in 2016, it was more than 38,000). It’s become one of the leading causes of preventable death in the country; almost as common as auto-related deaths.
Regardless, U.S. lawmakers can’t seem to come to a consensus on how to proactively address the issue. For years, despite ongoing high-profile mass shootings, Congress has failed to enact any new regulations aimed at limiting the number of gun deaths.
Gun control advocates argue that the solution is hidden in plain sight: just make it harder for people to get guns. U.S. gun laws, they argue, are exceptionally lenient, and make it incredibly easy for people to legally purchase firearms that are capable of mass destruction. America has, by far, the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. And more guns, they insist, means more gun violence.
But those opposed to new regulations, including the majority of Republican lawmakers, typically argue that stricter laws would only deprive law abiding Americans of their fundamental rights to protect themselves while doing little to prevent those with ill-intentions from getting hold of firearms.
Passing new national gun control measures has proven all but impossible in a country where the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution's Second Amendment, and where the gun rights lobby holds enormous political influence. Led by the efforts of the powerful National Rifle Association, firearms advocates stand firmly against almost any new restrictions. Through effective political organizing and generous campaign contributions, they have successfully thwarted all recent efforts to enact tougher regulations.
Firearms have played a pivotal but highly controversial role in shaping U.S. history and culture. Scroll through this timeline for more on the ongoing debate about the right to bear arms in America.