Structural violence refers to systematic ways in which social structures harm or otherwise disadvantage the lower classes; minorities much more so than the white majority, as much in the US as in post-apartheid South Africa. Institutional forces of violence such as police, military, and all organs of the state employing such methods enjoying legitimacy have license to subjugate non-conformists outside of the privileged social classes. Social exclusion and marginalization of large segments of the population from mainstream institutions with the goal of perpetuating a hierarchical social structure, and the use of institutional violence to maintain such social order, necessarily leads to the creation of behavioral violence that the state criminalizes. http://www.structuralviolence.org/structural-violence/
About half of the NRA annual political contributions have gone to congressmen that will advocate for the mentally ill to own guns. As if giving guns to the mentally ill is not sufficiently worrisome, it is estimated that the FBI has between 5000 and 15000 people on such a terrorist list, all eligible to buy a gun. In December 2015, the majority of the Senators voted against Sen. Diane Feinstein’s proposed legislation to block gun sales and explosives to those individuals on the various terrorist data bases of law enforcement Just as US lawmakers have no qualms about restricting firearms sales to terrorist suspects at home, similarly, they have no such qualms about providing massive military sales to countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar that in turn support various jihadist groups from Yemen to Syria. http://www.factcheck.org/2016/06/suspected-terrorists-and-guns/; http://www.salon.com/2016/10/11/leaked-hillary-clinton-emails-show-u-s-allies-saudi-arabia-and-qatar-supported-isis/
Despite legal battles at the federal level for stricter gun laws, states circumvented federal procedures allowing mentally ill people the right to purchase firearms. Because of a series of mass shootings during the Bush and Obama presidencies, carried out by mentally ill people (Virginia Tech, Tucson, and Aurora, among others), and because the mentally ill had legally obtained guns, there was popular and political drive to address the problem. The same simplistic arguments always emerge, namely, “people kill not guns, criminals have guns and so must honest citizens to protect themselves, and terrorists and illegal aliens are the culprits for much of the gun violence.” This too is a deliberate effort to pursue mass incarceration and more police state methods rather than address the problem by looking at the political economy that marginalizes and excludes large segments of people. http://csgv.org/issues/guns-and-mental-health/
Besides the federal government’s schizophrenic gun policy as part of the root cause of structural violence, the states also play an important role. Massachusetts and New Jersey, which have relatively strict gun-control laws, had an average of only 3.4 and 4.9 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 people, respectively, each year from 2007 to 2010, while Alaska and Louisiana, which have some of the loosest laws, had 17.5 and 18 per 100,000 people, respectively, the study revealed. “More than 20,400 pieces of gun-related legislation have been proposed following mass shooting events in the past 25 years. Of those bills, more than 3,000 have become law, according to a working paper recently released by researchers at the Harvard Business School. If you have a Republican legislature in your state and you have a mass shooting, the net effect if you look at the actual bills that get passed is there's a significant increase in bills that loosen gun restrictions.” http://www.npr.org/2016/07/12/485726439/mass-shootings-influence-spike-in-gun-related-laws-at-state-level
“What’s going on in Chicago?” asked Trump rhetorically following with the police-state suggestion of sending federal reinforcements to crush the violence that has dominated in low-income neighborhoods. A recent wave of violent crime in Chicago has captured the attention of the national political debate with Republican President Donald Trump proposing to deal with the problem by reinforcing the city policy force with a federal force. Interestingly, he proposed sending US feds to Mexico to deal with its drug-related crime there as though Mexico is a colony of the US. Without addressing the causes of the problem because that would expose the structural flaws, the predictable solution is to meet street violence with greater police enforcement and punitive measures than already exist, thus exacerbating the vicious cycle in Chicago land of Al Capone and some of the most notorious historic links between organized crime and local politicians, police, and judges. The irony regarding the police-state solution is that it has been in effect for more than two decades, but violent crime actually kept rising sharply during that period.
In February 2015, The Guardian published stories about the connection between the Chicago police department “black site” at Homan Square and the Guantanamo prison where terror suspects have been kept as political prisoners without ever been charged. An interrogation facility where prisoners were denied due process and subjected to torture, Homan Square operated secretly but its inmates were not jihadist suspects but local minorities. The mainstream media in Chicago and across the US largely ignored these revelations, giving them very little coverage because they exposed the de facto police state and its shortcomings, as well as flagrant human rights and civil rights violations. It is worth noting that the democratic mayors of Chicago collaborated with both Republican and Democrat US administrations in operating this facility, defending it in the name of “national security”. The Homan Square case illustrates the inexorably link between structural violence and behavioral and how the state violates it own laws – committing crimes and exempts itself from the law. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/homan-square
There is no doubt, that Chicago has a violent crime problem. Scholarly studies attribute the causes of crime to poverty, racism, and an institutional violence that reinforces individual violence. People have been alarmed by the estimated 4331 shooting victims in Chicago and the government and media constantly reinforce the assumption that criminal activity is an innate trait that must be dealt with mass incarceration and deadly force. An estimated 75% of those killed are black and 71% of those doing the killing are also black. Deaths by shooting are at 83.4%, with 90% of the victims male and young in a city that has a black population of just 33% according to the census of 2010. http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/chicago-75-murdered-are-black-71-murderers-are-black
Correlation of American Militarism and Domestic Gun Violence Culture
The flagrant hypocrisy of the US political elites and the media invoking the doctrine of “Exceptionalism” is hardly lost on Muslims any more than it is on Australian or Canadian Christians. As the world’s largest military and police power, the US political and bureaucratic system reflects a violence-oriented ideological, political and cultural orientation. If we consider that Switzerland has a very high percentage of gun ownership, yet, it is one of the world’s lowest rates of gun violence, then how do we explain that gun ownership alone does not necessarily lead to gun violence?
Unlike the US immersed in a militaristic-police state culture, Switzerland has no military, and its police force is bound to protect civil liberties of all people within the boundaries of the law without resorting to violent force. Some could argue that the absence of structural violence in Switzerland translates into a low rate of behavioral violence because it is so small and does not have military operations around the world as does the US. But how does one explain that Canada is much closer to the Swiss model than the US and that Canadians like Australians and Britons view the US as a very violent society?
Note on the title:
I chose the title, which in Germans translates to: Amerikanischer Polizeistaat Militarismus und Gewehr Gewalt not because the US is a full-fledged police state like the Third Reich under Hitler's totalirarian regime. The term police state (Polizeistaat) indicates government above the purview of a legal system subordinated to the police force under a dictator invariably in a one-party state. The term was first used right after the European revolutions of 1848. Amid the nationalist and social rebellions of various nationalities in the Austrian Empire, the government used the national police to restore the status quo and reserve the dying multi-ethnic empire with a weak underdeveloped economy and a weak military. Such reliance on police as a power base was ubiquitous under the Third Reich.
Unlike military dictatorships that rely on the armed forces as their power base to keep the regime in office, Nazi Germany relied on the Gestapo, SS - Schutzstaffel, and other police organs. There is nothing comparable in the US, although the FBI, Homeland Security, state, and local police exercising increased powers accorded to them by elected officials are hardly an encouraging sign for an open society. This is not to say that there are not those who have made comparisons between Germany’s Polizeistaat and contemporary America. (see Timothy Alexander Guzman, Civil Rights and the Militarization of Police, www.silentcrownews.com/wordpress/?=3484;
Whereas the was convergence among the elites in the Third Reich that lined behind Hitler, in the US there is some divergence among the political and socioeconomic elites regarding both domestic and foreign policy, that is, with the degree of militarism abroad and police-state methods at home as a way of managing the state. As socioeconomic and political polarization become more evident, I am not so certain that the US would revert to a New Deal-type of political economy and that’s where the polizeistaat model comes in.