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Monday, July 4, 2022

Why is there still no stricter gun laws in the US?

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An 18-year-old gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday. That is the 27th school shooting in the US this year. This brings the counter of American mass shootings this year to 212. Gun ownership is an issue that causes a lot of political division in the US. In a speech earlier today, US President Joe Biden called for action and tougher gun laws. But why is it that stricter gun laws are not in place after so many mass shootings?

According to the Small Arms Survey, an independent research project in Switzerland, most of the world’s weapons are found in America. In 2017, the US population made up four percent of the world’s population, while owning some forty-six percent of the world’s weapons. Firearms are the leading cause of death among American children and teenagers.

In addition, research that same year found that as many as 42 percent of American households owned firearms. On average, every household that owned firearms had nearly eight.

In many countries, it is exceptional to own firearms. In the United States, on the other hand, it seems to be a fairly common occurrence. When another mass shooting takes place, discussions about gun violence quickly arise. From the pro-firearms camp, there are sounds about the possible influence of video games and you hear statements like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. These sounds originate from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The NRA was founded in 1871 to educate Americans about marksmanship and promote responsible firearms use. At that time, the organization had nothing to do with politics. That changed in the 1970s when Congress passed the Gun Control Act. That is a law that introduced rules for arms trade between the different states. That was the first time the NRA opposed US gun laws.

From then on, the NRA became a politically active lobbying club that speaks out against any curtailment of the second amendment of the US Constitution: the right to bear arms. According to that article of the constitution, this right is necessary to maintain a ‘well-organized civilian militia’. While that law may not have been intended for it, the NRA managed to tie that fundamental right to individual gun ownership.

Within politics, laws, and rules are formed, discussed, and changed. Interest groups cannot be ignored in this process. Lobbying is influencing political decisions. This can take different forms. Think of negotiating, arguing, and defending. But lobbyists can also entice decision-makers by offering gifts. Therefore, it is not always clear when lobbying turns into corruption.

Gun ownership is an issue that is causing much political division in the US. It is a big topic in election campaigns. The NRA lobbies a lot, especially among Republican candidates. This is also reflected in studies showing that households with firearms are more likely to vote for Republican candidates.

The NRA influences many politicians, both locally and in Congress. That’s because they make financial donations, as long as those politicians vote against new forms of gun control. What makes the NRA more powerful is that they are good at mobilizing the gun-loving voters. For example, they support pro-firearms candidates during American (primary) elections. Because they have many good contacts in Washington, a rejection or endorsement by the NRA can make or break a political career in many places in the US.

Yet there is increasing opposition to the NRA. Proponents of stricter gun laws are getting better organized. You may remember Emma Gonzales who gave a world-famous speech after the school shooting in Florida in February 2018. Young people are rioting en masse and it is being talked about more and more. Proponents of stricter gun laws are getting more and more funding and victims of mass shootings are increasingly making themselves heard calling for tougher legislation.

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