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US gun reforms: will we ever see meaningful change?

Written by Eric Sun

Firearms can be fun. Having personally experienced shooting fully automatic, military grade weapons before in a gun range in Miami; I can confirm to you this fact.

But I can also confirm to you, that for every one of these ‘fun’ moments people enjoy with firearms, there are just as many ‘tragic’ moments caused by the misuse of firearms in the US. The recent Atlanta and Boulder shootings are an example of this. The deaths were totally preventable, if only the shooters weren’t able to get hold of their killing machines so easily. This begs the question: after so many shootings all across the country; when will the US finally push through with meaningful gun control legislation, which can properly keep its citizens safe?

To answer this question, we need to first look at why it has been so hard to push through gun control in the first place, to which the answer is two-fold:

Firstly, even in times of crisis, a significant portion of the American population does not want firearm restrictions. Many would look upon restrictions of firearms as not only unconstitutional (which we will discuss soon), but also a violation of their basic natural rights. As this Instagram post by the Libertarian Party (which was posted after the Atlanta and Boulder shootings had already happened) perfectly sums up, Americans don’t just believe in a right to bear arms because a certain piece of paper says so, many believe this right is sacred and predates the US government. It is such cultural attitudes that makes it already near impossible to pass effective gun control legislation: a great proportion of American society simply don’t want it, not to mention other problems which we will examine next.

Widespread popular support alone is not what makes this issue so hard to solve, there is also the infamous backing of these cultural beliefs from the Constitution itself. The words ‘shall not be infringed' have been there since 1791, and will likely always be there, seeing as it is so difficult to amend the US Constitution. This makes it so that as long as America exists, there can always be some justification for the use of firearms freely in the country. No matter how much American liberals argue that the Second Amendment is now outdated or that it was meant for militias and not private individuals, American conservatives can always use the Constitution as a last, unbreakable shield of defence for their ‘sacred’ firearms.

Given this present situation, then, what could be done to ensure the greater safety of the American public?

There is no easy answer, but in a way, freedom of gun ownership could be a self-containing phenomena. It could be the case that soon enough, as more mass shootings inevitably and sadly happen in the future, people eventually realise the danger behind their current attitudes. With the party much more friendly to suggestions of gun control enjoying a lot of power in both Congress and the Executive right now, it could be that the Democrats, along with a more willing future populace, could make a change for the better soon.

Yet this solution purely relies on the hopes that tragic events such as the Atlanta shooting CAN convince people that firearms are dangerous for society. It is unfortunately unlikely that this hope will ever be materialised. There are simply too many pro-gun conservatives in the country for the necessary change to be possible anytime in the foreseeable future. The NRA with its at least 3 million members and their $250 million budget alone has significant lobbying power at all levels of American government, and therefore will act as a brick wall against any sort of meaningful change. And even if NRA membership gets on the decline, it is in every NRA backing firearm manufacturers’ interest to keep the association’s pockets deep, and to splash the cash all over the floors of Congress, thus preventing effective gun control.

The attitude of ‘give me liberty or give me death’ has persisted as a central characteristic of American culture for 244 years, and will likely continue for much longer. It is for this chief reason that I do not see the end of this vicious repeating of history that is unfolding right before our eyes being near. The Constitution, as well as corporate interest groups only further complicate the matter. Xiaojie Tan lost her life in Atlanta 2021, Christopher Brown lost his in Washington DC 2020, and Jordan and Andre Anchondo lost theirs in El Paso 2019, the list of victims goes on and on. They were all murdered by the trigger fingers of mass shooters, who would not have killed so many, had they not had access to such weapons of mass murder. All America can do now is hope that as 2020 passes as one of the USA’s most violent years in decades, with public opinion ever so slightly swinging to the side of gun control rather than gun rights, along with the pro-gun control Democrats taking over the Presidency and Congress; there may be, just may be, a tiny, tiny chance that current circumstances could finally help gun control legislation get over the huge, towering hurdles it faces as described above...

Photo source - Unspash (Alex Radelich)



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