Why the US gun lobby has a fatal grip on US politics


The day after his 18th birthday, May 16, a teenager from Uvalde, Texas purchased a semi-automatic shotgun, capable of firing dozens of rounds per minute, from his local gun store. The next day he bought 375 cartridges. Two days after that, he bought a second semi-automatic rifle from the same shop. Each of these purchases was legal. The following week, on May 24, he entered Robb Elementary School and shot two teachers and 19 young children. It was the 27th school shooting in the United States this year.

Twenty-seven school shootings in one year – before the year was even over – is an unfathomable number. After each high-profile shoot, many Americans wonder if this will finally be the moment that inspires change. Yet this was not the time in 2012 when a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut claimed the lives of 20 six- and seven-year-olds. It wasn’t in 2016 when a man shot and killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Or in 2017, when a man shot and killed 59 people at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Gun advocates in the United States mythologize the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms will not be violated. They ignore the fact that there’s nothing in the constitution about assault rifles, or that letting an 18-year-old buy such a gun, no questions asked, is contrary to “well-regulated.”

Until the 1970s, the National Rifle Association (NRA), today the most powerful organization campaigning against even mild restrictions on gun ownership, was non-partisan. Indeed, the NRA supported the National Guns Act of 1934, which taxed the manufacture and transfer of guns, and the Gun Control Act of 1968, which regulated gun sales to fire internationally and between states. Some historians argue that this latest move was part of a process that politicizes the NRA. Others have argued that it was the backlash against civil rights in the 1960s that caused many white Americans to view the right to bear arms as a necessity not for a well-regulated militia, but to protect its family. In the decades that followed, gun control turned into a deadly battle in America’s culture war.

The Republican Party has meddled with the NRA’s agenda, refusing to support even light legislation such as requiring universal background checks, which polls suggest the majority of Americans support. He is rewarded both by his base, which believes in the right to uncontrolled access to firearms, and by the NRA, which funnels tens of millions of dollars to the party. Texas Senator Ted Cruz accepts more money from the NRA and other gun lobby organizations than anyone else in the Senate.

And so, in the aftermath of mass shootings, Republicans tend to advocate restrictions on schools. Following the Uvalde shooting, Cruz and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested limiting the number of doors in schools was a solution, while conservative online publication The Federalist suggested parents to homeschool their children. Republicans have also suggested arming teachers or stressed the need for police in schools. Yet armed police did not prevent Uvalde’s tragedy. Officers were at the scene for more than an hour before entering, as the children inside repeatedly called for police help. When asked why officers left the shooter with so many students for so long, a Texas Department of Public Safety official said they were cautious about engaging with the shooter because “they could have been shot.”

[See also: US gun violence is not just a domestic political issue]

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Still, it would be a mistake to blame only the NRA or the Republicans for the inertia of gun laws. The response from the Democratic leadership has been woefully inadequate. Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, where the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting took place, has championed gun control for a decade. On the evening of May 24, he delivered a powerful speech on the Senate floor, asking his colleagues, “What are we doing here? He then told reporters he was sure there were ten Republicans who would join Democrats in supporting gun legislation, despite all the evidence from the past decade to suggest otherwise.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to the shooting by encouraging Americans to vote in November’s midterm elections. The Senate then adjourned for a ten-day suspension. According to the Brady Campaign, a non-profit organization that campaigns for gun control, 321 people are shot every day in the United States, which means that more than 3,000 people are at risk of being killed or injured by guns. firearms when the Senate gets back to work. . It’s unclear how many shootings, in schools or elsewhere, will take place between now and November’s election.

Democrats aren’t even united against the NRA. The day of the shooting coincided with the Texas primary, in which Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar, who opposes abortion and has accepted NRA donations, ran against the more progressive Jessica Cisneros. Still, the Democratic leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, endorsed Cuellar, and the party poured money into its primary race.

At least one Democrat offered an expression of the anger that many felt. Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman currently running for governor, appeared at a press conference held by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on May 25. “It’s on you,” he told Abbott before being escorted out by security. Outside, a reporter asked O’Rourke about Abbott’s comment that it was not the right time to “make this policy.”

“Now is the time,” O’Rourke said, “to stop the next shooting.” By the following Monday, there had been at least 12 more mass shootings in the United States.

[See also: The Texas school shooting won’t prompt a gun ban in America]

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