The Five Forces Fueling Gun Violence - March for Our Lives (2023)

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Gun violence is the struggle of our lives. More than 40,000 people are killed by firearms in Germany every year. Murder is the leading cause of death for black men and boys under 40¹. Amid a once-in-a-lifetime global health pandemic, Americans have turned to gun protection and purchased a record number of firearms. In the summer of 2020, people were shot dead in cities across the United States as daily gun violence increased dramatically across the country.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic. As Gen-Z, most of us learned to take cover during an active shooting situation while learning to write our names in kindergarten. Some of us have even been exposed to gun violence in our homes or neighborhoods before. Those of us who survive childhood are growing old in a country where gun-related deaths have reduced life expectancy by an average of nearly 104 days, of which 45.9 days are from homicides and 52.3 days are from suicides.

Gun control alone will not stop this crisis. Gun safety alone cannot stop this cycle of death. We cannot just legislate gun violence. Instead, we must work to make gun violence obsolete by preventing it in the first place.

A new framework to end gun violence

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March For Our Lives is a movement dedicated to ending all forms of gun violence, not just mass shootings, but everyday gun violence, police violence and more. We fight for a world where no one has to suffer this tragic and avoidable end.

Our mission requires something bolder and more transformative than just gun control. We call for a world that reinvents itself: a world in which oppressive power structures are abandoned and community is embraced. A world where all human needs are met and where love for people is central.²

People with access to food, shelter, education, health, art, beauty and clean water, who are part of a loving and prosperous community where they are valued, safe and where they belong, do not take up arms. But our white racist capitalist society has made it almost impossible for ordinary people to achieve all the essentials of human well-being. Violence is the result of this brokenness.

Gun violence is the direct result of not addressing the larger systemic problems in our society that aggravate it. To completely eradicate gun violence, we must understand its root causes and rid ourselves of them and restore what has been destroyed.

The Five Forces Driving Gun Violence is our theory of change to accomplish this necessary liberation work. It is the result of an intense dialogue within our movement, centered on a fundamental question: What distinguishes a gun violence prevention approach from a gun control approach?

If you're reading this, we'll assume you're also interested in answering this question, and we invite you to learn from us as we discover how to make our arguments through this new lens. Instead of responding to gun violence and treating the symptoms, we want to fundamentally re-do our work.

Our goal is to identify and explore the personal and social forces that lead to gun violence. We believe that if we can make a difference in these key areas, we can save lives and move closer to a world where gun violence is unnecessary.

Language is important to us. We chose the term "forces" because the issues leading to gun violence are constantly changing. As our culture and laws change, we know that these intractable issues, such as political gridlock, militarization, and armed intimidation, will find new ways to surface. We hope this new framework will allow us to do real work against violence in our communities and to understand diverse and complex truths.

UE.glorification of arms

It's a cultural problem. Americans have a dysfunctional and unhealthy relationship with guns. Gun glorification is the belief ingrained in our culture that power and security come from guns. In this country we are putting guns on a pedestal and prioritizing access to firearms over access to human needs. This makes access to weapons extremely easy, easier than housing or medical care.

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The United States represents only 4% of the world's population, but possesses about 40% of the world's civilian arms.³

In our culture, guns are what make you a "true American." Gun ownership is so closely tied to personal and national identity that some feel that the idea of ​​taking away their guns erodes their self-esteem. Indeed, the use of arms is how the United States stole land and gained power as a nation in the first place.

Requiring background checks or banning offensive weapons is not enough. We must ask for these measures when we replace our excessive love of guns with love of people and of ourselves.

II: Armed Supremacy

This is a dominance issue. Rule of arms is the use of arms and the threat of armed violence to strengthen power structures, hierarchies and status. In this way, individuals or groups of people reinforce their perceived worth compared to those with less power. This is how white supremacy and patriarchy survive.

Every time we see a police officer brutalize or kill a civilian, often someone who is BIPOC or disabled, this is armed superiority in action. There is no recourse because sovereignty is designed to maintain the status quo.

For the past few decades, from the War on Drugs to the War on Terror, our government has prioritized spending on law enforcement and defense over welfare. As a result, those ostensibly responsible for protecting public safety have become more militarized and authoritarian.

The threat of violence cannot be the answer to violence. That is why we see police violence and armed violence as two fronts in the same struggle. The answer is investing in communities.

Armed supremacy is not limited to the state. Violence against women and child abuse are clear examples of more powerful groups, adult men and women, increasing their influence over the dispossessed.

III: Political apathy and corruption

Political apathy and corruption are the gradual destruction of the democratic principle that power rests with the people. It occurs when the policy fails to change the outcomes of those it is designed to serve. Politicians use voters to gain power, but voters get little in return. People become apathetic because they are not valued or empowered.

This cycle is deadly.

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Majorities of Americans in both political parties support basic solutions to restrict access to guns. However, there has been very little government recognition or action as the gun violence epidemic has grown worse over the past two decades. Groups like the NRA capitalize on our sick gun culture by acting like royalty in our democracy and exercising too much control over who gets elected. Politicians are afraid to address gun violence because they risk losing power. They turn a blind eye to the mass deaths of their constituents because they are playing a political game with our lives.

IV: Armut

Poverty is the condition of not having enough material possessions, income, or resources to meet basic human needs. The communities that face the highest rates of gun violence on a daily basis have been deliberately impoverished: resources and opportunities have been systematically denied by the state for generations.

This is the design of oppression. When communities are forced to despair and express that fear through gun violence, the system has already failed them. Weapons fill the gap where resources are lacking. Weapons are used to gather resources and money, to meet human needs, or simply to satisfy self-esteem.

There is no way to end gun violence without addressing homelessness, food shortages, segregation and economic stagnation.

V: The national mental health crisis

As we fight to end gun violence, another major public health emergency is occurring. Millions of Americans struggle with undiagnosed and untreated mental illness and lack of access to mental health care and support.

People with mental illness are often misrepresented as a threat to others when in fact they are at greater risk of becoming a victim of gun violence, including suicide. They are 16 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than people without a mental illness.⁴ About half of the suicide deaths in the United States involve firearms.⁵

These are two crises.

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Our country's mental health crisis is a manifestation of all four of the above forces: gun glorification, gun supremacy, political apathy and corruption, and poverty. These crises are true symbols of how far we have come from a healthy and vibrant society. We must eliminate unnecessary human suffering.

Join us on our journey

March For Our Lives was founded out of righteous anger against the status quo in our society, which claimed that our lives were disposable and that gun violence was an act of fate. The opposite is true. Gun violence is the result of intentionally oppressive systems, bigotry, and a failure to see the humanity in ourselves and others. Our true purpose is to find and live our purpose, in loving communities, without fear of violence.

In the three years of its existence, our organization has moved from focusing primarily on school violence and mass shootings to ending all forms of gun violence. Today, our movement is fueled by young leaders from across the country who have experienced the intersection of gun violence and the forces that drive it. As we grow, we want to take a more intersectional approach to our advocacy, and we hope this framework will allow us to do so more effectively and concretely. We hope to learn along the way and better understand the layers of this epidemic.

Footnotes + additional sources

  1. Homicide is the leading cause of death for black men and boys under the age of 40, according to 2019 CDC data.Here, on the website
  2. March For Our Lives defines human needs using organizer Mariame Kaba's definition: Basic human needs include “food, shelter, education, health, art, beauty, clean water and more, which are critical to personal and community safety are." .
  3. small arms riot
  4. Treatment Support Center
  5. UC Davis Health

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2. SABATON - Stormtroopers (Official Lyric Video)
3. The Truth about the March For Our Lives Protest
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4. The Rise in US Gun Violence
5. Mass murder fueled by white supremacy is domestic terrorism | The Mehdi Hasan Show
6. Deadly punch caught on video outside Ybor City bar
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