Human rights group Amnesty International has declared America’s gun violence epidemic a “human rights crisis” in its most recent report. Titled In the Line of Fire, this 220-page document analyzes the drastic impact gun violence has on American lives. The report also provides a policy framework, which it urges American federal, state, and tribal governments to adopt in order to solve the gun violence issues at hand. As shootings and violence continue to plague America, it is time stronger policies are implemented to protect one’s universal right to life and security.
The Executive Director of Amnesty International U.S.A., Margaret Huang, said: “The U.S. government is prioritizing gun ownership over basic human rights. While many solutions have been offered, there has been a stunning lack of political will to save lives.” Huang also argued that “the ability to go about your daily life in security and dignity, free from fear, is at the very cornerstone of human rights.” For a part of its report, Amnesty International also spoke to a number of victims of gun violence. This includes Pam Bosley, who after losing her son to gun violence in 2006, stated that “you have to understand, our children are suffering.”
The need for the policy recommendations outlined in In the Line of Fire is greater than ever. The report urges Congress to ban semi-automatic rifles and guns, enact stronger background checks, and place further national restrictions on firearm licenses. Additionally, the report is also taking positive steps to tackle gun violence on a state-by-state basis. Amnesty International is currently working on initiatives in Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan to minimize gun violence. For example, in Illinois Amnesty International has initiatives to help reduce the spread of illegal guns. These initiatives include a petition, which can be signed by the general public, asking the Governor of Illinois to crack down on illegal gun trafficking. These small but positive actions will help tackle America’s gun issues from the bottom up, while it is hoped that In the Line of Fire will spark law reform at higher levels of government.
Parts of America’s violent and dark gun history are revealed in Amnesty International’s report. For example, in 2016 alone 38,658 people died from gun violence, while another 116,000 survived gun-related injuries. Gun violence in the United States disproportionately affects children and communities of colour. For example, the report outlined that black males were 20 times more likely to be shot than white males. Additionally, between 2013 and June of 2018, there has been an alarming 316 gun-related incidents in U.S. schools. In the wake of this report, Al Jazeera reflected on President Trump’s previous stances on gun control. These include his promise to protect the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment of the Constitution, delivered in a speech to the National Rifle Association (NRA) in May of this year. It can only be hoped that the president’s views on gun control will shift, so in the future one’s universal right to life can trump one’s right to bear arms.
Amnesty International’s In the Line of Fire provides extensive evidence for why America now faces a “human rights crisis.” The statistics related to gun violence in 2016 alone are enough to threaten Americans’ rights to life and security. While small steps are being taken by human rights organizations to tackle gun violence, it is hoped that the report will spark wider law reform on a state and national basis.
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