Sat, Oct 07, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Why attempts at gun control failed in the US

By Tom McCarthy  /  The Guardian

IS IT THE NRA’S FAULT?

As the 2013 failure of universal background checks illustrated, the NRA is a powerful lobby group.

“It came down to politics — the worry that the vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections,” Obama said of senators who had not dared to support the bill.

The NRA has more than half a dozen full-time federal lobbyists and claims a grassroots membership of 5 million. More importantly, NRA members are known for being politically active — showing up at public meetings, bombarding congressional offices with telephone calls, and for voting.

However, the NRA is not even in the top 50 in terms of spending and their influence might be eroded by the increasing assertiveness of Democratic politicians and gun-control campaigners who now challenge their arguments and organization.

WHAT KIND OF GUN CONROL?

One hurdle to effective gun control measures in the US is a disagreement over what kind of action is needed.

Focus on a new military-style weapons ban might detract from a potential ban on high-capacity magazines, which might be the more effective measure to limit the terrible toll of mass shootings.

Researchers also call for more investment in threat assessment and intervention programs.

Community advocates urge more funding for local programs that have been shown to reduce gang-related murder.

Health experts urge the public to recognize that mental health is a serious factor in gun suicide.

ARE THERE SIMPLY TOO MANY GUNS OUT THERE?

There were about 265 million, at the last count — more than one for every adult American. That means that any new gun control measure in the US advances against an ominous reality, of a nation already flooded with guns.

That reality is the core of gun advocates’ claim that new legislation to limit gun ownership would not increase public safety, while funneling gun possession toward lawbreakers.

THE AMERICAN GUN MYTHOLOGY

Books like American Gun: The History of the US in 10 Firearms begin to articulate a feature of the US gun debate that might be elusive to the outside observer.

Debate rages as to whether the framers of the constitution drafted the second amendment, which enshrines the right to bear arms, as a hedge against private militias; as an affirmation of the nation’s revolutionary roots; as an acknowledgment of a divine individual right; or as all of the above.

From the revolutionary war to the genocide of Native Americans to the taming of the western wilderness to the ratification of the code of anti-government American individualism, US history is filled with guns.

The future might be, too.

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