US Country Conditions Researcher: Congress Has the Power to Stop Gun Violence; Will They?
The US has seen a rapid increase in gun-related homicides that has consequently affected children, families and communities.
Based on prior research, more than 25% of children will witness an act of gun violence in their lives. Not only will children hear and witness gun-related incidents, such as losing a family member to this form of violence, but they will also be directly exposed to gun-related violence. This exposure can take the form of threats, injury or death.
Research further indicates children residing in the South will experience higher baseline levels of violence exposure than children residing in other parts of the US. Another distressing fact is that Black children were exposed to firearm violence more in their neighborhoods than White children. Earlier this year, this frightening statistic took shape for Aderrien Murry after he called 911 for help. Murry would later find himself shot in the chest by an Indianola police sergeant.
By good fortune, Murry was released from the hospital and is expected to recover. However, other families will not receive such fortunate news. “This is scary. We got kids with firearms,” Sparkle Norman told WMBD News after losing her 15-year-old nephew, Emarion Carpenter, to guns. “It’s not safe. These are our babies leaving us,” Norman continued.
Family members disclosed that Carpenter immediately succumbed to the gun shot injury that penetrated his chest. “We’re human too. We love our babies too. We want our babies when we wake up—we want to tell our babies good night,” Norman implored.
Norman is not the only guardian shaken by the recent spur of gun violence. “Why is it so bad?” Why is there a 7-year-old with a bloody gun!” a Newport News mother anguishly asks a reporter, after a 6-year-old shot a teacher in Virginia.
The difficulties in combating gun violence in the US have induced Canada, Ireland, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and Australia to issue travel advisories for its citizens.
As a counterbalance, President Biden urged Congress to enshrine tough gun restrictions into US legislation. Despite the President’s call-to-action, the Protecting Our Kids Act (H.R. 7910) has been stalled in the Senate. This bill would provide for an increased age limit on certain firearms. It would also prevent gun trafficking, modernize the prohibition of untraceable firearms and encourage the safe storage of firearms.
The Assault Weapons Ban of 2023 (S.25), which President Biden urged Congress to pass, has also been stalled. This bill would limit arms on the street by regulating assault weapons.
The re-introduced Gun Trafficker Detection Act would require lost or stolen firearms to be reported to law enforcement authorities within 48 hours. Additionally, the Pause for Gun Safety Act would require sellers to comply with the Act’s seven-day waiting period before a firearm is released to a potential buyer.
“The fight for the right to life is not the cause of a special few, but the cause of every man, woman and child who cares not only about his or her own family, but the whole family of man.”
Mildred Fay Jefferson
While I commend Representative Slotkin for introducing this bill, these solutions may do more harm than good.
First, an individual purchasing a firearm to harm themselves or to commit a mass shooting may not have a criminal history. It is also likely that systems will not “red flag” a transferee’s alleged mental history, which renders the seven-day waiting period ineffective.
Second, inviting a transferor to determine whether a transferee will use or may intend to use a firearm for a crime opens the appeal to probability. For example, there are beliefs in the US that most Blacks are violent and aggressive.
If transferors were permitted to act on their beliefs, on the assumption that Blacks are more violent, aggressive and must be kept away from firearms, transferors would inevitably reject the sale. To be sure, reports show Blacks have been denied concealed-carry licenses despite not having a criminal record or violent history. A review of the reasons provided show the transferors argued the men had a “propensity for violence or instability,” a stereotype that could befall any potential gun-owner.
While I staunchly condemn the level of gun freedoms the US Constitution and Congress has given to Americans, I cannot deny that the Act would give transferors unfettered discretion to pick and choose who owns a firearm. This discretion could put more children, families and communities at risk.
It is worth stating at this point that it is difficult to tell, just by looking at someone, if they have a propensity for violence or instability. One need only look to the Texas mall outlet shooting earlier this year, where a perpetrator with no criminal history passed the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, later committing one of the most deadliest mass shootings we’ve seen this year. On reflection, it seems more accurate to say amending the Second Amendment is a better solution.
It is abundantly clear that this culture of violence has rocked the nation and has placed communities in fear. In the last 72 hrs., more than a 150 people have lost their lives to guns. This is approximately 50 lives lost per day.
US Country Conditions Researcher: Congress Has the Power to Stop Gun Violence; Will They? If it Does Not, is International Law the Answer?
The prevalence of gun violence in the US violates the right to life and the right to security of person. Under the ICCPR, the US has a positive obligation of due diligence to prevent violations of the right to life. According to Maria Monnheimer, states have a general obligation to provide legislative human rights protection. Should Congress fail to enact gun-control legislation that protects the right to life, this could constitute a failure to comply with its international human rights obligations.
In the words of Mildred Fay Jefferson, “The fight for the right to life is not the cause of a special few, but the cause of every man, woman and child who cares not only about his or her own family, but the whole family of man.”
 Collins, Julie, and Emily Swoveland. “The Impact of Gun Violence: On Children, Families, & Communities.” Children’s Voice, vol. 23, no. 1, 2014, pp. 10–13. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/48626388. Accessed 22 June 2023.
 Nickerson, Amanda, and Rohan, Sonali. “Effects of Firearm Violence on Children: Implications for its Prevention in Our Schools and Communities.” The Rockefeller Institute of Government. August 2022, https://rockinst.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Effects-of-Firearm-Violence-on-Children.pdf
 Holloway, K., Cahill, G., Tieu, T. et al. Reviewing the Literature on the Impact of Gun Violence on Early Childhood Development. Curr Psychiatry Rep (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-023-01428-6
 Valencia, Nick, and Sayers, Devin M. “11-year-old Mississippi who was shot by responding police officer after calling 911 is released from the hospital.” CNN. May 2023, https://edition.cnn.com/2023/05/24/us/mississippi-police-shooting-11-year-old-boy/index.html
 WMBD News. “Family of Peoria 15-year-old killed in weekend shooting begs for gun violence to stop.” https://youtu.be/7JA3_CbtYIg
 NowThis. “British Mom Slams U.S. Gun Laws: How Does a 7-year-old Have a Gun?” NowThis News. January 2023, https://nowthisnews.com/news/watch-angry-british-mom-slams-us-gun-laws-how-does-a-7-year-old-have-a-gun
 Phang, Katie. “Gun violence and U.S. Tourism.” MSNBC YouTube. May 2023, https://youtu.be/N34l5TBR3Mo
 “H.R.7910 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Protecting Our Kids Act.” Congress.gov, Library of Congress, https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/7910. Accessed 22 June 2023.
 “S.25 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): Assault Weapons Ban of 2023.” Congress.Gov, Library of Congress, www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/senate-bill/25. Accessed 22 June 2023.
 “H.R.2418 – Gun Trafficker Detection Act .” Congress.Gov, Library of Congress, www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/2418?s=1&r=71. Accessed 22 June 2023.
 “H.R.2392 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): Pause for Gun Safety Act.” Congress.Gov, Library of Congress, www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/2392?s=1&r=20. Accessed 22 June 2023.
 Hurwitz, Jon, and Mark Peffley. “Public Perceptions of Race and Crime: The Role of Racial Stereotypes.” American Journal of Political Science, vol. 41, no. 2, 1997, pp. 375–401. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/2111769. Accessed 22 June 2023. See p. 380.
 Moyer, Justin Wm. “D.C. Won’t Give 3 Black Men Concealed-Carry Licenses. They’re Suing.” The Washington Post, 26 Oct. 2022, www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/10/27/guns-concealed-carry-lawsuit-discrimination/.