Patriarchy, White Supremacy, And Gun Violence In The U.S.

As of April 22nd, 2021, the Gun Violence Archive has recorded 159 incidents of mass shootings in the United States this year alone. That number is nearly double what was reported on the same day last year, which was 87. Both of these numbers are far too high. In March of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills, HR8 and HR1446, which are meant to increase gun safety and regulation.

In early April, the Biden administration released a fact sheet detailing a timeline of actions they will be taking to address gun violence in the U.S. However, this is proving to be too little too late. Since the passage of the House bills, there have been 75 more mass shootings. Twenty-six of which were in the weeks following the release of the Biden administration’s timeline. Mass shootings are occurring almost daily in the United States, with the rising death toll adding on to the general public’s anxiety surrounding gun violence. That does not mean, however, that the general public has come to a consensus that gun regulations need to be stricter – and neither has Congress. HR8 passed the House with the support of only eight Republican representatives and HR1446 passed with only two. The longstanding stance of the Republican Party regarding gun control revolves around whether gun control policies will inhibit the ability of citizens to acquire guns easily. The Democratic Party’s main concern is whether the gun control policies will decrease the number of people who are ‘at risk’ of acting violent who obtain guns. Both parties believe their approach is the way to address the issue of gun violence in the U.S. The glaring flaw in both of these philosophies is the inability of these reactive measures to address the root causes of the problem.

According to RAND, a non-profit institution that provides research for policy and decision making, “the perpetrators of mass public shootings in the United States have been overwhelmingly male (98 percent) and are most commonly non-Hispanic White (61 percent).” Western society, and the United States in general, has long been dominated by heteropatriarchy and white supremacy. For a long time, wealthy white male property owners were the only ones given recognized political power in this country – and the legacy of that is economic and social inequalities that linger to this day. It is common to find in movies, television, and other media male characters portrayed as violent, aggressive, and dominating even in protagonist roles. The normalized version of a “man” in U.S. society is often understood as hyper-masculine, straight, and white. Anyone who falls outside of these categories is seen as an “other” to be either assimilated or dominated.

Consider for a moment the shooting in Atlanta on March 16th of this year. The suspected perpetrator – Robert Aaron Long, a white man – shot and killed six Asian American women and killed two others. In response to this horrific act of violence, Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department stated that Long was “having a bad day.” Some have criticized this remark as reducing the situation from the premeditated murder of several Asian American women to an impulse resulting from a bad day. This kind of reduction fails to acknowledge the existing power hierarchies that have led Long to remorselessly murdering those he felt were a problem to society. The motive that the media has been suggesting is that he was a sex addict who was “fed up” with the temptation that these women represented, reducing them to sexual objects that must be removed from society. The hypersexualization of Asian women is a problem that has long persisted in this country. In the case of Robert Long, his misogyny and racist hypersexualization of Asian women led to the death of eight people.

There have been numerous proposals to combat gun violence in this country, but violence will always persist; there will always be ways to acquire firearms outside of the knowledge of law enforcement. A multitude of studies have found patriarchal social conditioning is linked to domestic violence. Jess Hill wrote for the guardian, “Thousands of years of patriarchy has laid pretty good groundwork for [entitlement to control women].” Plenty more studies have found links between domestic violence and gun violence. Bloomberg reports about 60% of mass shootings are either an act of domestic violence or perpetrated by someone with a history of it.

To effectively combat the violence of all kinds in this country, we must begin to dismantle the racist and patriarchal systems and socialization that teach men, and specifically white men, that their violence is acceptable.