Mass shootings are such a part of American life that they even have their own rules. For it to count in the statistics, an event of these characteristics must cause the death of at least four people, not counting the shooter, and that these are not members of the same family. So far this year, there have been about 200 mass shootings in the country.
Until this Tuesday, the most serious of 2022 had been that of Saturday, May 14 in Buffalo, when an 18-year-old white supremacist named Payton Gendron shot 13 people in a popular supermarket in the eastern city of the State of New York. He killed 10 people, all African Americans. That record has taken 10 days to break in the Texas town of Uvalde, where Salvador Ramos, also 18, has murdered at least 18 children, elementary school students, and two adults in a school. Unlike Gendron, the shooter is dead, authorities have said.
When such a tragedy occurs, it artificially reopens the debate on gun control somewhat in a country where the right to bear one is guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. With 4% of the world’s population, the United States owns almost half of the planet’s registered pistols and rifles (393 million, out of a total of 857 million). An article from the satirical magazine also tends to go viral The onion which is titled “There is no way to prevent this”, says the only nation in which this happens regularly.
Perhaps irony is the way, for lack of a more complete one, to deal with a recurrent drama that the legislators in Washington do not seem willing to stop (what is certain is that they are not capable). After the last massacre, a ritual is expected in the Capitol that is repeated every time. United in a collective duel that fills hours of television, the Democrats will express their outrage, say that something like this cannot happen again and announce initiatives to curb the epidemic of armed violence. There will also be some negotiations with the Republicans most inclined to review the law. Surely, they will end without agreement.
And they are not alone. Gallup’s most recent poll on the issue found that only 52% of Americans believe gun ownership laws should be toughened. In 2018, that figure rose to 67%. Never since 2014 have the numbers been so low.
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In the relentless cycle of violence in this country, eras are measured by the events that leave the biggest mark on the collective subconscious. The United States is still living, according to this reasoning, under the influence of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (which succeeded the Columbine High School in 1998). In December it will be 10 years since that. So, 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 26 people; 20 of them were children between the ages of six and seven. The rest, school workers.
Out of that pain came a bill to increase gun control, which failed to win the support of 46 of the 100 members of the Senate. For a legislative change of these characteristics, 60 votes in favor are necessary, by virtue of the parliamentary obstruction maneuver known as filibusterism, which balances the capacity for action of both parties to the point of paralysis. That initiative was carried out by Senators Joe Manchin III (Democrat, from West Virginia) and Patrick J. Toomey (Republican from Pennsylvania).
Since then, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to monitoring violence in the country, there have been 3,500 mass shootings. In schools like the one in Newtown (Connecticut, 2012), the one in Parkland (in Florida, in 2017) or the one this Tuesday in Uvalde (Texas), yes, but also in churches in neighborhoods with a majority African-American majority (Charleston, South Carolina , 2015), gay nightclubs (Orlando, 2016), music festivals (Las Vegas, 2017), synagogues (Pittsburgh, 2018), supermarkets (El Paso, 2019 and Buffalo, 2022), or Asian massage businesses (Atlanta, 2021 ). Last year’s deadliest killing spree occurred in Boulder, Colorado. It took the lives of 10 people ahead.
Nothing is enough for American laws to change. Not even that the tenant of the White House has a history prone to gun control. In 1994, when he was a senator from Delaware, Joe Biden sponsored a rule that banned assault weapons (like the one used by the kid in the Buffalo massacre last week) and high-capacity cartridges. Bill Clinton signed it, and it was in force until 2004, when George Bush Jr. dropped it. Every time a misfortune like the one on Tuesday occurs, Biden reminds us that something can be done (this reduced the number of mass shootings, although the deaths did not drop significantly). Last Tuesday in Buffalo he told the victims of the supermarket massacre.
That same day, the attorney general of New York, Letitia James, recalled in a conversation with EL PAÍS that one of the big problems in moving forward with legislation against weapons is that the industry is among the most powerful, and uses millions of dollars. to put pressure on Washington.
It doesn’t look like they’re going to stop doing it. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has just released a report stating that, between 2010 and 2020, gun production has doubled from year to year. And the pandemic has only made things worse: with crime rates on the rise in big cities, in 2020, they broke an all-time record, with 22.8 million units sold in the United States. The second best year was 2021. Another of the great paradoxes is that this has not contributed to making this country a safer place.
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