The debate around gun control has grown in the United States since the number of mass shootings has multiplied in this nation. Gun control reform has been attempted throughout history, but there is strong opposition from the Republican Party and the gun lobby, who see any control as a violation of their rights and an assault on the US Constitution.
The mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24 has reopened the debate about gun control in the United States. In recent years, attacks with firearms have multiplied in this North American nation and, although the debate on arms control has spread, progress in this area has been very limited. What makes it so difficult to put controls in the United States despite these massacres?
The answer is the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. And it is that, since 1791, the possession of weapons is a constitutional right in this country. A right that was created in the framework of the war of independence, but has not been modified since then, although the contemporary context has little to do with the one that existed at the end of the 18th century. This is the reason why it is so complicated to legislate to regulate the sale of arms in this country.
But beyond the historical context and its constitutional protection, it is necessary to highlight the ease with which, in many states, a gun can be purchased. In some of them it is only necessary to identify yourself, show that you do not have a criminal record and your immigration status. And there are paradoxes like an 18-year-old who can buy a semi-automatic weapon but can’t have a beer.
These facilities make it possible that in many states the percentage of the population that owns a weapon is very high. As can be seen on this map, in up to 7 states more than 50% of their inhabitants have a firearm and in the vast majority of them more than 30% of civilians are armed. Figures that no other country in the world, not even those at war, records.
In fact, the total figure is 393 million guns for a total of 332 million Americans. That is, more weapons than people. Something that has inevitably affected the security of this nation. Especially in the last three decades. Mass shootings have been on the rise and have hit supermarkets, events or schools indifferently. The reasons for these attacks are very varied and do not respond to a specific pattern. They range from white supremacy to revenge for being bullied.
The Columbine massacre as a reference in tragedies
Of all these cases, the one that is perhaps most emblematic is the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, located in the state of Colorado. Here, two students from the center murdered 13 people with automatic weapons and even used explosives against classmates and teachers. The massacre shocked the country and international opinion. In fact, to this day, it remains one of the most remembered massacres. This fact caused the authorities to mobilize and promise reforms.
But the promises of change were little. Although access to automatic weapons was regulated during Bill Clinton’s time, after George W. Bush came to power this rule was eliminated and mass shootings continued to increase. Massacres such as those at Virginia Tech in 2007, Binghamton in 2009, Sandy Hook in 2012 or Las Vegas in 2017 have increasingly shocked the United States. To the point that a good part of the Democratic Party began to describe these shootings as an epidemic.
Opposition to restrictions
But there was still no change. The pressure exerted on US politics by the arms industry or lobbies like the National Rifle Association is very strong. These power groups staunchly defend the right to bear arms and refuse any type of control despite the growing trend of mass shootings in the nation. Much of its strength is due to the support of the Republican Party and this issue has been the cause of a constant confrontation between this party and the Democrats. The clearest example can be found in positions such as those of Donald Trump, who, days after the Uvalde massacre, defended the use of weapons by teachers.
But, in reality, these policies have contributed to the increase in mass shootings since 2018, reaching a maximum of 691 in 2021. Data that, despite being devastating, does not seem to mean a change. Despite the fact that there are positive examples such as the United Kingdom, which after regulating the use of weapons in 1996 saw shootings decrease. In fact, the dynamics are going the other way… The number of sales in recent years has skyrocketed …and without a consensus between the Democratic and Republican Parties on the issue…it seems very difficult for something to be legislated that could change the current regulations. A situation that will probably continue to hit the United States in the future.
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