By Samrat Pasriccha
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” ~Martin Luther King Jr.
Michigan Central University, Parkland, Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook……. With every shooting, the list becomes longer, and the names of victims blurred, but the scars left on the families remain. The USA stands divided on the quandary of gun control. The Democrats support gun reform legislation that will ban the use of assault and semi-assault weapons, close the gun-show loophole and the online-loophole, advocate for stronger background checks, and raise the legal age to purchase firearms. On the other side, the Republican party supports the National Rifle Association (NRA) and their endeavor to preserve the second amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America which states “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. The second amendment has been a constant source of debate in American politics.
The data on mass shootings and gun-related violence is astounding, with more than 21 deaths occurring in 2018 alone. No other developed nation even comes close to America in the statistics on gun shootings. The Washington Post reported that just last year there were 307 mass shootings, which averages at seven shootings a week. In Australia a mass shooting in Port Arthur in 1996 left 35 dead and saw the country enforce an expensive project to get rid of gun violence from their society. However the USA has not seen any reform or action on the issue. After the recent shootings in Florida, a new student-led movement is surging throughout America, where the young people are making their voices heard on social media, using the hashtag #NeverAgain.
The question that remains to be answered is will change finally come about? Many would be pessimistic about the chances of a significant gun reform legislation getting through Republican controlled congress, senate and white house, especially since, “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”. Ben Kalb, a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live called out lawmakers for offering their thoughts and prayers for the victims whilst taking millions in campaign donations from pro-gun lobbies.
However, there is still room for hope. President Trump recently came out in support of a bi-partisan legislation on gun control, stronger background checks and increasing the federal age restrictions on buying firearms in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “most Americans believe we should solve problems that Americans are facing, like gun violence and school safety problems”. These have been encouraging signs that have dominated the current political climate. What can be said for sure, is that gun reform is going to be a major point of conversation and can potentially sway the votes in the lead up to the 2018 polls.
Whilst a radical change in America’s gun policy remains unlikely, as 88.8% of Americans own a firearm, lawmakers need to find a solution. Obama said, “I am restricted by a system that our founders put in place”.` The Second Amendment is claiming lives; a law written in 1791 is having an adverse effect on lives in the 21st century; there is a need for a serious legislative reform. Is change possible? Certainly. Is it finally about to come? Let’s wait and see.
Image Ingolf via Flickr