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Nothing changes if nothing changes – Americans and Gun Control 

Once again, America is shaken up by and its attention drawn to gun violence. 

The most recent school shooting on May 24, 2022, in Texas, which left 19 children and two adults dead, followed shortly after the most recent hate crime in a supermarket in Buffalo, where a man gunned down people of colour, leaving ten dead. And it is yet another mass shooting that could have been prevented.

For decades, guns and gun control have been a salient issue in American politics, polarising political opponents and ordinary people on different sides of the political spectrum. Owning a firearm is normality in American society, so much so that those opposing gun control often refer to their right to bear a gun as laid down in the Second Amendment. 

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The National Rifle Association (NRA)

Behind the highly polarised issue of gun rights and the defence of the Second Amendment stands one particular organization: the National Rifle Association (NRA). 

The NRA describes itself as “America’s longest-standing civil rights organization” and states that it is “widely recognized today as a major political force and as America’s foremost defender of Second Amendment rights”. 

Effectively a lobbying organization for gun owner rights, the NRA regularly supports and endorses (Republican) politicians who speak out against gun control and in favour of the Second Amendment. The NRA just recently endorsed Texan Governor Greg Abbott, who is up for re-election, on their webpage: ‘”As both attorney general and governor, Abbott has tenaciously defended the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding Texans,” said Jason Ouimet, NRA-PVF chairman. “His significant impact on the advancement of gun rights cannot be overstated as Texas has become a model for other states to follow.”‘ The article further states that “Abbott has earned the highest attainable “A+” rating from the NRA. That rating is reserved for elected officials who have a demonstrated record of leadership in the fight to promote and defend the right to keep and bear arms.” 

According to the BBC, the NRA spends around three million dollars a year for lobbying for and influencing gun policy. It is the most powerful gun lobby in the United States, supporting GOP politicians who will speak out against stricter gun control and holding Americans hostage to a system that has proven to cost lives and inflict tragedies on families. 

Differences in perception: Democrats vs Republicans

In general, one can say that Republicans are to a large extent strong supporters of the Second Amendment and gun rights, while Democrats seem to favour at least some sort of gun control. 

Interestingly, according to Pew Research Center, “Republicans and Democrats have stark, fundamental differences on questions relating to the causes of gun violence – and even whether gun violence is a serious problem in the country.” The research also states that while there is some bipartisan support for certain gun proposals, great partisan differences remain on many others. 

Regarding the causes of and contributing factors to gun violence, the partisan divide over the degree to which legally obtained guns contribute to gun violence is striking: “About three-quarters (76%) of Democrats say the ease with which people can legally obtain guns contributes a great deal or fair amount to gun violence, compared with just 39% of Republicans.” Thus, the majority of Democrats agree that the lack of obstacles to obtaining a gun is directly related to and a cause for gun violence, while the majority of Republicans do not think so. 

Similarly illustrative for the partisan divide, more than 50% of Republicans think that there would be less crime if gun ownership among Americans was higher, while slightly over 50% of Democrats agree that crime would rise if more Americans owned guns. This is a particularly interesting difference as it feeds into the debate over whether the country would be safer if more people carried a gun or whether gun control is the way to go.  

Rally to Prevent Gun Violence
Rally to Prevent Gun Violence by Maryland GovPics, CC BY 2.0

More guns do not equal safety

It is a long-held belief and often-used argument by the NRA and people defending the Second Amendment that more guns will make the country safer –  a logical fallacy. 

According to former President Donald Trump, the solution to school shootings was to arm teachers with guns, despite there being no evidence of actually preventing or stopping gun violence in schools. 

In fact, more guns do not make a country safer, as numbers show and this article explains. In addition, guns also do not make a home safer – instead, there is a link between increased risk of homicides and suicides and guns at home. 

That being said, one can conclude that the argument that more guns make a country safer does not hold. More guns do not equal safety. If anything, it could increase gun violence and deaths by shootings, whether intended or by accident. Studies on this speak volumes, whether the GOP wants to see it or not.

It is thus about time that politicians come together and act on the problem of gun violence in America. Introducing stricter gun control for safety does not necessarily violate Americans’ Second Amendment rights. For example, more background checks should be introduced, and the legal age to buy a gun must be raised – in some states, a person as young as 16 years old (!) is allowed to buy certain guns, while the legal drinking age is set at 21 years across the United States. In some states, it is more difficult to get an abortion than a gun. These examples are not just outrageous but also against reason.

Gun control as a dividing issue between left vs right, Democrats vs Republicans, and right vs wrong should not be at the forefront of the debate. Rather, citizens’ and most of all children’s safety should be. There needs to be an open conversation between people across the political spectrum, between gun enthusiasts and gun control enthusiasts, about the issue at hand. And finally, a broad consensus for potential reforms toward gun safety needs to be found that is acceptable to both sides. American politicians cannot continue to talk about mass shootings as unforeseeable tragedies without looking at and talking about the broader problem at hand: easy access to lethal weapons.

Because in the end, if all fails and nothing ever changes, then nothing will change and more people will die at the hands of gun violence.

Sources

BBC (2022): US gun control: What is the NRA and why is it so powerful?, BBC, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35261394

Feller, M. & Kahn, M. (2019): How Easy Is It To Get A Gun Versus An Abortion In All 50 States?, Elle, https://www.elle.com/culture/career-politics/news/g27309/how-hard-it-is-to-get-a-gun-and-an-abortion-in-all-50-states/

Holpuch, A. (2018): Trump insists on arming teachers despite lack of evidence it would stop shootings, The Guadian, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/22/donald-trump-insists-arming-teachers-guns-shootings 

Lindsay, J. (2018): What age can you buy a gun in America?, Metro, https://metro.co.uk/2018/02/16/age-can-buy-gun-america-7318177/

National Rifle Association: A brief history of the NRA, National Rifle Association https://home.nra.org/about-the-nra/ 

National Rifle Association – Political Victory Fund (2022): NRA Endorses Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, National Rifle Association, https://www.nrapvf.org/articles/20220216/nra-endorses-texas-governor-greg-abbott 

Oliphant, J. B. (2017): Bipartisan support for some gun proposals, stark partisan divisions on many others, Pew Research Center,  https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/23/bipartisan-support-for-some-gun-proposals-stark-partisan-divisions-on-many-others/ 

Smith, D. (2018): Trump’s solution to school shootings: arm teachers with guns, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/21/donald-trump-solution-to-school-shootings-arm-teachers-with-guns 

Wenner Moyer, M. (2017): More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows, American Scientific, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/more-guns-do-not-stop-more-crimes-evidence-shows/ 

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