The New Normal : Gun Violence in America

type - opinion
As gun violence reaches an epic scale, our US foresight analyst Carly Ettinger explores the rise of the gun safety tech market - and what this reveals about citizen sentiment and a burgeoning grief economy.


Gun violence has reached an epidemic scale in the US. With over 480 mass shootings as of 4 September 2023 alone (source: Gun Violence Archive), Americans, including myself, are desensitised but desperate for a solution.

Until the mid-2000s, we viewed mass shootings as shocking – a major, rare and tragic event that seemingly only happened to a few unlucky people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Until then, I knew each major tragedy by name, from the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in 1999 to the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012. These shook me to the core, yet I could have never foreshadowed they would become the norm.

Mass shootings don’t just wreak havoc and devastation among survivors. They can trigger a ripple effect of trauma among witnesses, their families, and even people taking in the news. This widespread pain drives a new grief economy in the US, composed of counselling services, support groups, young adult grief clubs on social media, physical memorials and museums. There is even a rise in grief subscription boxes, such as Good Grief and the Loss Box.

Published by:

12 September 2023

Author: Carly Ettinger

Image: Biofire, US


Left: Kickback is a line of bullet-resistant amenities and loungewear, US. Right: Biofire, US
While unpredictable, mass shootings are inevitably connected to increased purchases of guns. A key factor differentiating the US and other countries is how easily accessible guns are – in 2022 alone, over 17m firearms were sold (source: But these shootings also result from toxic masculinity, mental health struggles, the COVID-19 pandemic, racial discrimination, domestic violence (source: The Trace), the economy, inconsistent gun laws and background checks across different states, social media, sensationalised news and more. Given the scale of the issue, Americans can’t find the quick fix they seek.
As American consumers, we have recognised that firearm violence is now woven into the fabric of US culture and are changing our behaviour accordingly. Nearly every American (84%) reports taking at least one precaution to protect themselves or their families from gun violence (source: 2023 KFF study). For some, this means actively discussing gun safety with family, purchasing weapons or attending classes. For others, this means avoiding large crowds, cultural or religious events and public transit. Some parents are even changing their child’s school district or moving cities out of fear.
As an antidote to a nationwide crisis, the US is now home to a growing market of gun safety technology, drawing entrepreneurial innovation and investment for the greater good. Emerging products and services aim to predict, prevent and address mass shooting events. One of them is BioFire, a Millennial-led company creating the ‘future of firearms’ by starting with the world’s first ‘Smart Gun’. Its biometric engine utilises 3D facial recognition and fingerprint identification to unlock the gun. The company raised more than £23.7m ($30m, €27.7m) in funding in 2023.
‘Mass shootings don’t just wreak havoc and devastation among survivors. They can trigger a ripple effect of trauma [across America]’
Biofire, US

Youth is even entering this space with solutions to solve a crisis they have dealt with since a young age. Growing up, my school drills only aimed to protect us from tornados and severe weather. The school experience is much different for US Gen Z and Gen Alpha, who understand mass shootings to a degree that no child should. According to the CDC, firearms were the leading cause of death for children aged 1-19 during 2020 and 2021.

One of the many young adults angered by government inaction on gun policy, Kayla Austin, a Chicago-raised Black Gen Z female, thought of her start-up My Gun’s Been Moved at 12. Now a student at Howard University, the young entrepreneur is working on patent-pending technology to create a pad that allows firearm owners to monitor their weapons through their phones and detects and alerts if a gun has been displaced. As a Millennial, I cannot fully fathom how this affects America’s youth, impacting their identity today and shaping who they will be tomorrow.

Other services are appearing, such as Omnilert, a digital platform combining AI gun detection with the industry’s leading crisis management service to help prevent threats and deal with emergencies. But I want to see more from regular brands and businesses. In the US, they have the reach and resources to help incite political change about gun laws. Why would it not be their responsibility to take a stand and fight for a safer America, too?

Whether they acknowledge it or not, they already deal with the impact of mass shootings on US consumers of all ages. And it’s not good for business. Communities that experience gun violence are less likely to be hubs for economic growth and face lower property values, fewer business start-ups and loss of jobs. On the bright side, in Washington, DC, every 10 fewer gunfire incidents in a census tract are significantly related to: one new business opening; the creation of 20 more jobs in new businesses; £1m ($1.3m, €1.2m) more in sales at new companies; and one less business closure (source: Urban Institute).

I want to see Americans and corporate America emerge from their shock and collective grief to take actionLet’s put in ideas, investment and energy towards tangible solutions. The future of America depends on it.

‘Americans feel these stories are important to tell, not only in support of survivors and victims, but as a call to action’

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