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Gun Violence Through a Human Rights Lens

How Gun Violence Impacts the Human Rights of Specific Groups

Rights to Equal Protection under Law and Freedom from Discrimination

The disproportionate impact of gun violence on communities of color in the U.S. has been raised as a human rights issue by both the UN Human Rights Committee and by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The U.S. must do more: “The state has a duty to actively prioritize marginalized communities who face the biggest obstacles to realizing the full spectrum of their rights. When a state fails to act with sufficient due diligence in preventing or responding to gun violence, this can violate an individual’s right to equality before the law.”

There is no question that black and brown Americans are disproportionately impacted by gun violence in the U.S. and that it is a human rights failure. There is not one single solution, but at a minimum, one means to reduce firearms violence is to establish a system of laws which properly regulates access to firearms and which provides social and health services to support those impacted by gun violence.

Given the potential harm and devastating impact of the misuse of firearms on the enjoyment of human rights, public policies with respect to civilian access to firearms should be reviewed and formulated through a human rights lens.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in its 2016 report to the Human Rights Council

Rights of Children

In recognition of the UDHR’s specification that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child declared that every child has the inherent right to life, and that states “shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.” In addition, children also have a right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health. The burden of firearm violence is borne by children all around the U.S., and particularly by children of color. Children in the U.S. are victims and witnesses to firearm violence in their homes, schools, and communities. It is imperative that the U.S. take action to protect their lives and enable a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development.

Rights of Women

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has recognized that gender-based violence against women is a form of discrimination. In 2006, the UN Human Rights Council noted: “the State has particularly acute obligations when it comes to protecting the rights of vulnerable groups, including victims of domestic violence, who are most at risk from misuse of a gun in the home. The presence of a gun in the home can easily turn domestic violence into domestic homicide.” This is proven true in the U.S. on daily basis; in fact, women in the U.S. are 16 times more likely to be murdered with a firearm than women in other high income countries.

The failure to enact and enforce firearm regulations has, and continue to, place women in the U.S. in danger. The U.S. has an affirmative obligation to do more to protect the rights of women.


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