24, Mar 2018 | Deborah Grey
Students across the United States are participating in the March for Our Lives demanding Common Sense Gun Control Laws. However, given the financial might and political influence of the gun lobby, it remains to be seen if the government would actually enact any laws that would reduce people’s access to firearms.
Occurring a little over 6 weeks into 2018, and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day, was the seventh such incident in 2018 in the United States. Earlier this year similar shootings have taken place in Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Michigan and Philadelphia, showing how American school children and teenagers are highly vulnerable to gun violence.
According to the Brady Campaign, an organisation dedicated to ending gun violence by advocating stringent gun control measures, over 17,000 American children and teenagers are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings and police interventions every year. Over 45 children and teenagers are shot every day! 1 out of 3 homes with kids have guns and nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with an unlocked, loaded gun. But, children and teenagers aren’t just the victims or survivors of gun violence, they are often the perpetrators. In 2015, toddlers killed more Americans than terrorists!
All kinds of automatic and semi-automatic firearms such as handguns, assault rifles, air guns and hunting rifles are all available are available for purchase with minimum fuss across gun shops as well as large departmental stores.
Guns Vs People
Ever since the Columbine tragedy, two parallel narratives have emerged when it comes to finding reasons behind gun violence, especially in schools and colleges. While one group vociferously blames the easy availability of guns, the other insists that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, highlighting the need to have better mental health care. The fact that people with mental illness also have access to firearms is what should raise an alarm.
This is why Barack Obama, who is often called the most anti-gun President in US history, insisted on people with mental illness to be added to the register of people requiring a background check prior to gun purchase. The Obama-era regulation, which was enacted after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, would have required the Social Security Administration to send records of beneficiaries with severe mental disabilities to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Interestingly, Donald Trump rolled back this regulation.
What it important to note though that neither position, Guns kill People or People kill People, contradicts the other, given how people kill people using guns that are easily available. The fact that one lobby pitches its ideas as that opposing those of another lobby has got more to do with politics than anything else.
The Politics of Gun Control
The Gun Control lobby has been at loggerheads with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and similar pro-gun groups in America for decades. At the crux of this lies the Second Amendment to the Constitution that gives every American the right to bear arms. Many extreme right wing groups also believe that people have the ‘God given right’ to bear arms! This has therefore evolved into a Republican vs Democrat issue with the former in favour of bearing arms and the latter having views ranging from a complete ban on sale of firearms to civilians to sale only after stringent background checks and mental health evaluation. What neither can deny though, is that it is ridiculously easy to buy firearms in America. Laws related to purchase and ownership of rifles, long guns and hand guns are either lax or poorly implemented.
Corporate Lobbying and its impact on Gun Control
The gun manufacturing business thrives on insecurity and conflict. War makes them rich. Fire arms manufacturers have deep pockets. They routinely use their considerable monetary muscle to fund campaigns of politicians who can later be used to twist policy decisions in favour of the gun lobby. According to a report in The Guardian, the National Rifle Association (NRA) had invested a considerable amount of funds into the Trump campaign.
The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics estimated that during the 2016 election, the NRA and its affiliates spent a record $54m to secure Republican control of the White House and Congress, including at least $30.3m to help elect Donald Trump. Another scathing piece in the LA Times claimed that Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio has been the beneficiary of $3,303,355 in campaign spending by the NRA. That haul places him sixth among current members of Congress. These are just two examples of a problem that is certainly more widespread.
However, businesses that are owned and operated by more liberal and humane managements are now openly coming out in support of common sense gun control. While Citibank has set restrictions on gun sales by business partners, YouTube has decided to block fire arms demo videos.
School kids to the rescue!
When the adults failed to act, it was left to the kids to demand their own rights. And there’s no doubt that the teenagers who watched their friends die in Parkland have done more than any government or organisation, to unite sensible people across America to demand common sense gun control laws. This should have got them a pat on the back, but instead different legislators and senators fell over themselves to discredit the children and their intentions. Some even tried to dismiss them as crisis actors who were all a part of a “deep state” conspiracy, a claim that hold no water. While the children bravely forged ahead, Time Magazine put them on its cover and published a detailed story on their ordeal.
Meanwhile the March for our Lives has gone global as more than 800 events are planned across the world! On March 24, as these young human rights defenders join their fellow students and take to the streets of Washington DC demanding justice for their slain friends, one wonders if it is these highly determined children who will eventually save the world from destruction.
Feature Image: AFP