Hate from within kills more people in the US than from outside

The United States, that pioneering country that promoted the right to pursue happiness while in Europe we were still discussing religious freedom, suffered once again last Tuesday, May 24, a mass shooting in an educational center. This time it has taken place in Texas, where more than twenty people have been murdered, the vast majority of them minors. Far from stopping the escalation around the access of weapons, the immediate response of the Chief Prosecutor of the State has followed a continuous line, something that should make us reflect.

We are talking about the country with the highest defense spending, which has kept the world on edge for decades due to its decisions and initiatives in foreign policy and which in recent years has been truly obsessed with international anti-terrorist policy, with important challenges ahead in geopolitical matters, but which does not seem to realize that the main threat is internal.

There is a tendency, usually, to identify external monsters more clearly, which are even given names such as “axis of evil”, but it is difficult to assume one’s own.

mass youth shootings

Mass shootings in the United States are infrequent, but always too many. Given their very important impacts, they are not isolated events: there have been 13 mass shootings in educational centers since the Columbine massacre in 1999 and only so far this year there have been 27 incidents with weapons in training centers and more than 200 mass shootings in general (those incidents where at least four people are shot).

The case of last May 24, along with the one in Buffalo just a few weeks ago, has again opened debates on violence, with greater or lesser success, such as the use of video games, bullying, suicide or access to weapons. And the matter is not minor, since firearms are already the main cause of death of American minors, above traffic accidents. Specifically, suicide, in 2020, accounted for 54% of deaths from the use of firearms.

Violence: the monster with a thousand faces

We can identify some critical issues around violence in the US, focusing on structural aspects, at a time when there has been talk of an “Pandemic of violence”.

The truth is that American white supremacism is not a recent or new issue, but it is a more deadly phenomenon than international terrorism. In the more than 20 years since the 9/11 attacks, more people have been killed by attacks by far-right radicals than by jihadists. In total, far-right terrorists perpetrated the majority – 57% – of all attacks and plots during this period, compared to 25% by left-wing terrorists, 15% by religious terrorists, 3% by ethno-nationalists and 0.7% by terrorists with other motivations.

In addition, the country is in the midst of an opioid crisis, where deaths from fentanyl overdoses triple those of 2019. This addiction can be between 50 and 100 times stronger than heroin.

All this in a growing social polarization that generates a perfect breeding ground for political discontent to manifest itself with violence, such as the assault on the Capitol in 2021. Indicators on hate and hate speech have skyrocketed in recent years. The racial issue is still the subject of important claims such as the well-known Black Lives Matter.

These are data and trends that influence the need to broaden our perspective when analyzing problems that may initially seem purely security related.

A country that not even tragedy can unite

Facing internal monsters requires looking in the mirror. Monsters sleeping under the bed permanently is not an option. Admitting the problem and performing a proper analysis is the first step. At the present time, it does not seem feasible that decisions can be made, in view of the start of the mid-term election campaign, in a country so extremely polarized that not even the impact of the tragedy manages to unite. Quite the contrary.

Mass shootings are, even in the US case, events of low frequency, although with extreme media impact. The focus may be on extremism, mass shootings or suicide, but underlying structural problems and a threatening ease of access to weapons.

And the most important thing: monsters are not fought with other monsters. To propose that the solution to the existing problem is to increase the number of weapons or provide them to teachers is tremendously irresponsible. As is often pointed out, whoever fights monsters with more monsters runs the risk of becoming one of them.

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