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The Latest Narrative: Americans Are Too Paranoid and Afraid to Responsibly Own Guns

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Nonetheless, [a Florida wrong-house shooting], along with a spate of recent shootings across the country which victimized Americans who approached property owners by mistake or for an otherwise innocent reason, did not only vividly illustrate how the US is flooded with guns. It all also showed how people who are made paranoid by the nation’s bitter political climate believe they can use guns with impunity thanks to firearms laws and self-defense statutes that in many states are remarkably permissive, according to experts who spoke with the Guardian this week.

“A lot of people who shouldn’t have guns, who don’t need them, who don’t know how to use them safely … are fearful and trigger happy,” said the president of Global Action on Gun Violence, Jonathan Lowy. “And it’s inevitable that that will lead to tragedies like we’re seeing.”

In a speech on the legislative floor, the Democratic Connecticut US senator Chris Murphy added: “Gun murders are now just the way in which we work out our frustrations. This is a dystopia … that we’ve chosen for ourselves.”

A Harvard University study from 2016 found “there is no good evidence” that using a firearm in purported self-defense reduces the likelihood of injury.

The study’s author, David Hemenway, found some evidence that having a gun for such a purpose may reduce the likelihood of property loss. “But the evidence is equally compelling that having another weapon, such as [pepper spray] or a baseball bat, will also reduce the likelihood of property loss,” Hemenway has said.

Nonetheless, US gun manufacturers have been able to sell their products briskly – some experts estimate there are more than 400m firearms circulating across the country, whose population is about 332 million. Experts say gun manufacturers have done that by collectively convincing buyers that having a firearm is both a constitutional right as well as an effective tool to help them ward off potential danger, playing up the worst-case scenarios that few people are statistically likely to experience but which receive disproportionate attention from media outlets and political partisans.

“The narrative that has been pushed by the gun industry and many politicians [is] that a person needs to be armed at all times everywhere or else they are going to get murdered by the boogeyman,” said Allison Anderman, the Giffords Law Center’s senior counsel and director of local policy.

— Ramon Antonio Vargas in ‘Fearful and Trigger Happy’: Flooded With Guns and Paranoia, the US Reels From Shootings

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