Why We Can’t Understand America’s Gun Problem

To the UK, it’s about morality. In the US, the NRA squash moral concerns, and make the issue all about money.

The greatest tragedy about every single mass shooting in America is that nobody is ever really surprised. In fact, they’re never so much breaking news stories, but another desperate piece of reporting drudgery that is destined to repeat itself. And that is the greatest betrayal of American citizens. This tragedy will happen again. It will happen again after that. And then it will keep happening.

In the UK, people take to social media, TV, radio and any other platform they can to express their horror. Our nation just doesn’t understand. When we had our mass shooting tragedy, we cracked down on guns so that it would never happen again. America didn’t, and it’s chosen not to every single time.

It’s not truly about culture or love of guns – that is only part of the story. Opinions on guns range hugely in America. Statistics show that few people want outright bans. It’s not even a left versus right wing issue. Some activists wish to be armed, because they don’t feel safe with rising neo-Nazi protests. Others, are terrified of a situation where police have guns (and are regularly killing people, particularly people of colour) but citizens don’t. In 2017, 963 people were fatally shot by the police. In that context, it’s not difficult to see why even those who don’t care about American exceptionalism or the out-dated constitution would be reluctant to lose their guns.

Millennials are rarely at either extreme end of the scale on guns. They neither want everyone to have any gun they want, but nor do they particularly want every gun in America to be destroyed. There is a huge middle ground, and while that shouldn’t help cause any immediate fix, it would seem to leave room for some sort of compromise, and perhaps even a scaling back on weapons allowed.

However, any compromise or revision is unlikely. This isn’t truly about moral arguments – and, indeed, the pro-gun lobby are eviscerated on that front. The stats are clear: when there are tough gun control laws then mass shootings rarely happen. Since Sandy Hook, in America there have been over 1,500 mass shootings – that’s in just over five years.

The regularity of such atrocities is hard to fathom, but has become daily life in America. Yet, this is much more about America’s system of politics than morality. We may sneer at America and ask how people allow this to happen – but people are writing to Congress, they are campaigning, they are doing what they can to bring change. But politicians don’t want to hear it.

“The regularity of such atrocities is hard to fathom, but has become daily life in America”

President Trump recently made it even easier to get hold of a gun – but during his presidential campaign, he received over $20 million in donations from the National Rifle Association. Clinton, who wanted tougher restrictions on gun access, was therefore at a huge disadvantage in the campaign. The NRA, a business and one that profits from the sales of weapons (just to emphasise how morally ambiguous they are), is buying off who gets into the White House.

Yet, it doesn’t just stop at the Oval Office. Senator John McCain has won a legion of fans for being one of the few Republicans to call out the President. He even stunned his party by voting against them on the healthcare bill. However, McCain is believed to have received over $7,700,000 from the NRA. That’s right – over 7 million. While most of this was received during his own presidential campaign, there are plenty of other politicians in the House of Representatives and the Senate who have received hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.

The political implications are clear. Look at their statements. They’ll give thoughts and prayers, they’ll talk about evil, they’ll express sympathy for loss but they will not mention guns. If the NRA withdrew funding, they’d likely lose their seats.

America is being held to ransom by the NRA, and weak-willed politicians, who care more about their own careers then the constituents they are supposed to represent, allow it. America isn’t being led by Trump. It’s by businesses who are too big to be held to account. If there is to be significant change, then funding around parties will have to change. To tackle guns, there has to be funding reform of political parties.

Yet, again this will always be blocked by an America that hides behind its constitution. Reform won’t happen on financial funding of parties because of the first amendment – that, and the fact Republicans hold power and they’re not going to make their own lives harder. It just isn’t in their own interests.

The political establishment is working against the American public and that’s why this keeps happening. It’s why owning a gun is seen as a right, but if someone goes to hospital to get treatment for being shot then they have to pay for it. Brits, we shouldn’t judge Americans. This is a trauma that Americans are being put through time and again, because their political system has been hijacked by people who make money the more guns are sold, the more bullets are fired, and the more people feel afraid. Guns do kill people. And bad people use guns to kill people quicker and more easily than any other weapon that can be bought. But it’s time to go to the source, and challenge those who profit from the sales of guns. When they go out of business, or when they’re stopped from funding political parties, only then will there be change.

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