The U.S. Agency For International Development uses a tool called the Conflict Assessment Framework to understand foreign countries that are in various stages of civil strife, and to illuminate the resilience of their political systems, and the likelihood of societal violence. In the past, places such as Northern Ireland, Rwanda, and South Africa have been studied, to name a few. Having used the same tool to assess the current situation in our own country, the agency concluded that it paints a “damning picture of American politics,” and concludes that “the likelihood of violence in the United States is troubling. (Foreign Affairs Mar/Apr ’21).
A significant part of the unease here revolves around the rise of political extremism, coupled with the fact that the U.S. continues to become more and more of an armed camp. The last few years have witnessed an explosion of gun ownership, with rates per 100 people far exceeding those of any other nation on earth. For example, the latest figures for the U.S. are 120.5 guns per 100 persons vs. the next highest, 62.1 in the Falkland Islands, or 19.6 in Germany and France. And these figures don’t account for the significant surge this past year. (Small Arms Survey).
While recognizing the right to gun ownership, it is more important than ever to keep guns out of the hands of those who are criminally or psychologically unqualified to own them. Bills are pending now at the national level, and here in Minnesota in our Legislature, to provide for a background check on every gun sale, whether from a licensed dealer or a private party, so as to eliminate the ability of a disqualified person from obtaining a gun through what is commonly called the gun-show loophole. The public has let it be known that they overwhelmingly support these measures in opinion polls.
While not a complete solution to guns in dangerous hands, we need these laws as a basis for our efforts to diminish the seriousness of this ongoing problem. It is vital that lawmakers now hear from all of us, that we demand these bills are passed into law.
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