In the land of milk and honey, weapons
Because of dead children, the system doesn’t change
By Roland Peters
May 28, 2022, 18:17
The horror in the United States and elsewhere over the act killing 19 school-age children is grand, and there are many calls for stricter gun laws. But what is likely to happen eventually: nothing. It’s not just about lobbyists and the political system.
In ten days, 31 people were killed in two horrific acts in the United States, including 19 children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. “They died like a battle, my God,” said US President Joe Biden, in shock at the massacre in a gun-friendly state. “Losing a child is like tearing out a piece of your soul.” Biden knows what he is talking about, he himself lost his son Beau a few years ago. The president says he will pray for the family. “When are we going to counter the gun lobby? When in God’s name are we going to do what we all know and feel the need to do? “
Biden exaggerates when he says “everyone”; according to a MorningConsult poll, 65 percent of US citizens support tighter restrictions on gun ownership, but yes: there is a clear majority in favor of stricter behavior overall. Only 28 percent are against it. Nevertheless, it is clear to the US and all those concerned that even after these 31 dead people, nothing or almost nothing will change, especially not through prayer, these typical “thoughts and prayers” as a reaction to guns drama. This has long since become a code of inactivity in gun law. If you don’t want to do anything, you can just make an announcement that you want to pray.
Most also support a ban on so-called assault weapons. Biden explicitly mentioned the semi-automatic weapon because it brings the greatest profit to the defense industry. Ruling Democrats in particular are advocating stricter gun laws, while Republicans are against them. But most and their political representatives are fighting over the legislative wall in the US Senate. A project like this requires a 60 percent majority, but you don’t see it. Even if the Democrats had it, there’s a good chance someone in their own ranks would torpedo the project in order to move their own agenda forward in exchange for maximum dilution.
Weakened NRA, established culture
The National Rifle Organization (NRA) is one of the most powerful civilian organizations in the country, guiding the interests of gun owners and those who deem it necessary. Perhaps it has lost some of its influence in recent years and is no longer transferring as much money as it did in 2016, when it paid about $ 54 million to an election campaign, mainly for future President Donald Trump. The shooting lobby of the NRA and others has invested approximately $ 33 million in the 2020 presidential election. One of the main goals: to prevent the tightening of the rules on gun owners.
Most of the donors to organize the NRA Victory Fund campaign in 2019 are retirees. In the first study from 2003, it was still 40 percent. In addition to soaring court costs and corruption charges, the problems of the NRA also include the loss of members. So, according to the US trade magazine The Reload, NRA premium income fell to $ 165.2 million last year, 19.4 million less than the organization expected. A spokeswoman for the NRA said many of the problems were related to the pandemic, but the organization was stronger than ever: “We are promoting the constitutional right to bear arms, the gold standard of self-defense.” At the annual meeting, a few Republicans are handing out a microphone today. Texas Senator Ted Cruz has made a speech in Houston, as has former President Donald Trump. For them, the possession of weapons is a tool for achieving political goals.
The activism of the NRA, in its own way, married the owners of the arms to the Republicans. In their positive perception, the owner of the gun is a concerned citizen in the best sense of the word, defending himself, his family and defenseless fellowmen against dangers. Who in this way uses the constitutionally guaranteed right, which means protection of life, and not danger or death. Republicans, and Trump in recent years in particular, have blamed this nostalgic understanding of freedom with their anti-elitist rhetoric. It fuels the impression that democrats in the cities don’t know real American life outside of it, but still want to dictate how everyone should live.
About a third of Americans own firearms, a third would consider it, and a third have ruled them out entirely. The gun carriers are mostly male, white, Republicans, and live in rural areas. Most have many weapons at home, most for security reasons. The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the constitution guarantees this statewide, although laws governing the carrying of firearms outside the home vary widely from state to state. For example, Ted Cruz, recently crushed Democrats’ demands for stricter national laws. Democrats tried to curtail the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.
Deadlock in the Senate, Supreme Court
From the perspective of the progressive Democrats, the weapons debate also highlights the shortcomings of the political system the Senate uses to block progressive legislation. Sparsely populated, rural, and mostly republican states are overrepresented there. The state has two senators, whether it has 40 million people (California) or 600,000 (Wyoming). This representative imbalance was originally intended to protect the elite from the influence of a broad, uneducated population, but also to protect the interests of the countryside from urban domination. Many Republicans see it that way to this day, and this is also reflected in the election results. Roughly speaking, Democrats are more likely to win in cities and Republicans are more likely to win in the countryside.
The imbalance in the Senate only becomes dramatic with obstruction: an endless speech that anyone can make if they want to overturn a legislative bill. It can only be completed by a 60% majority. There is always talk of changing the obstruction, but that would also require 60 percent. So the cat bites its own tail, because why would someone agree to limit their own influence if they don’t have to?
Added to this is the conservative dominance of the Supreme Court, which has been cemented for the time being by new appointments under the Trump presidency. The Supreme Court may soon extend the rights of gun owners even further. A specific case concerns the carrying of weapons in New York, which, according to the plaintiffs, should be allowed – after all, this is guaranteed by the constitution, and the corresponding state ban is therefore ineffective. The Supreme Court’s decision may set a precedent for the entire United States. The United States is a weapon fan’s paradise, even without such a verdict.
More cases than ever before
More than 45,000 people died from guns in the US in 2020; 54 percent of them committed suicide, 43 percent were shot. The numbers are high by US standards, but not record high. More people were killed in the United States by guns in the 1970s than today. However, it is massacres such as those in Texas that are becoming exclamation points in public debate. Recently, there are more and more of them, and the number of lone perpetrators with multiple victims has increased in recent years. The FBI counted three such cases in 2000 and 40 in 2020, more than ever before.
In recent years, anti-gun lobby groups have gained influence, which is also associated with higher financial outlays. In 2020, they spent a record $ 23.5 million. But at the top of politics, they still do little due to the balance of power in the Senate and systemic constraints. So the Republicans are on the side of the gun owners, the Democrats are not going anywhere with their projects. Some argue that President Biden could simply issue executive orders or declare a public health emergency and take countermeasures, given the death toll from gun violence. In both cases, however, it would be easy to undo. And the next elections are just a few months away.