Americans forced to bite the bullet: Why gun control won't happen yet
By DANIEL SILLETT
Tributes were paid following May's mass shooting at an Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas
On 24 May 2022, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos shot and killed nineteen students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Texas.
On 14 December 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed twenty students and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
According to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, these are the two deadliest school shooting incidents in the US since data began in 1970 – since which there have been 2,052 school shooting incidents killing 661 people. In other words, the two deadliest incidents over the past fifty-two years have occurred in the last decade.
To me, this necessitates an inescapable conclusion: America’s gun problem is getting worse.
This is a fact which can be put down to many things. A Marxist may argue that people have increasingly turned to violence in the hostile neoliberal era of inequality, driving people towards crime, and physical and mental health problems. Others may adopt a more simplistic yet equally ear-pricking stance, such as unlimited internet access exposing individuals to vicious horrors which they then attempt to replicate. Whatever your opinion, the death toll continues to rise.
The more important question is what to do about it. Whilst watching the news coverage of the Texas shooting, my family exasperatingly asked me ‘Why don’t they just ban guns?’. The answer can consist only of theoretical and systemic drivel, as follows. The Second Amendment’s ‘right to bear arms’ clause is the problem child of the US Constitution. But, being part of the Constitution, it cannot be amended without two-thirds support from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and three-quarters ratification by the states. And that isn’t going to happen when thirty of fifty states are currently governed by Republicans, by-and-large the party in favour of guns.
The Founding Fathers designed a systemic minefield of explosive mechanisms which are effectively impossible to trigger. While they thought they were protecting the US from falling back into the hands of a tyrant, they in fact stopped it from progressing forwards. This irony is demonstrated beautifully – yet tragically – by the Second Amendment, producing a constant tug of war where neither side ever truly wins.
The system means that a solution is not forthcoming. But it becomes even less forthcoming when one examines the power politics at play. Money makes the political world go round in the US, far more than in the UK, due to lacklustre fundraising regulations. Indeed, the 2020 presidential election was the most expensive on record, costing $14.4 billion. However, day-to-day political issues are also big business in America because of the influence of bankrolled pressure groups.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is the big-hitter for the pro-gun side, vastly outspending gun control groups – such as the Sandy Hook Promise – which are so comparatively small they are rarely seen in news headlines. For the 2020 presidential election alone, the NRA spent $4.5 million campaigning in favour of Donald Trump, yet spent a further $12.1 million campaigning against Joe Biden. No doubt, too, that the decision to go ahead with their annual meeting in Houston days after the Texas shooting, including a visit from Trump himself, represents a political statement of indifference in itself.
The role of money in US politics therefore shows that not only is the system structure in favour of conservatism, but also the monetary oil which greases the running of day-to-day politics. Such an uneven playing field inevitably equates to difficulty in trying to make reforms; not least as the NRA are said to ‘own’ the Republican Party, highlighting the extent of their influence.
This assessment of the potential for change is just as bleak as the outlook in American society, off the back of yet another week where the lives of innocent civilians were cruelly taken far too soon by the misuse of a firearm. This is perhaps the worst part: that, despite such tragedy, it has become almost routine to the extent that individuals are demanding more guns to protect themselves and solve the problem. Trump’s solution is more protection and security for schools, no doubt involving giving teachers firearms to defend themselves.
However, this seems double Dutch on every count; surely you don’t add more weapons into the fray amidst a massacre. Surely that would only risk more shootings as more individuals gain access to firearms. Yet this is the stance of contemporary American politicians. Not all of them, but apparently too many to amend the Constitution, that’s for certain.
One can only end on a rather bleak note, with a glimmer of light in the distance. Immediate change, given the systemic immobility and political powerplay, is off the cards. But I sense the experiences of the new generation, witnessing such brutality, is turning America away from guns.
We can only hope that this attitudinal change produces a future political change that saves lives. For now, though, it seems civilians must bite the bullet of all-out warfare.
Image: Flickr / Jac Malloy