It is highly likely there will be another mass shooting in the US within weeks, perhaps yet again a massacre of children and teachers. This is the unavoidable, tragic extrapolation of abundant statistical evidence and research, of which much has been written since the latest preventable carnage, the death of 17 people at a Florida secondary school. US politicians are arguably criminally negligent for failing to act despite there being such abundant evidence that gun controls would save countless lives. The land of the brave and the free looks more like the swamp of the cowardly and captured.
But there just might be a positive, belated change brewing. Yes, the usual dismal scenario is under way: mass shooting kills and maims the innocent; devastated families and communities receive “thoughts and prayers” from lawmakers who immediately add that “now is not the time to discuss gun control”; gun lobby says “guns don’t kill people” and “only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns”; legislatures make no real changes. Such is the sway of the gun lobby, and so entrenched is the mistaken view that individuals have a constitutional right to carry a gun, even and especially in a public space, that it appears unlikely lawmakers will do anything substantial to stem the slaughter. But the situation just might improve. Corporate supporters are abandoning the nefarious National Rifle Association.
The farce has been made even more dismaying by US President Donald Trump’s endorsement of the evidently insane notion of arming gun-proficient teachers and paying them a bonus to be the first line of defence against deranged killers armed with military assault weapons acquired legally. At the same time, he ruled out ownership restrictions and checks that have saved thousands of Australian lives while not unduly crimping individual liberty. The world looks on in disbelief and despair. More than 30,000 people a year are killed by guns in the US, about a third homicide (mass shootings are a very small proportion) and two-thirds suicide, while 85,000 are injured.
The NRA was once in support of gun control, and had a primary focus on hunting and target shooting. But the organisation was taken over decades ago by a faction that believed the Second Amendment of the US constitution, which had the purpose of enshrining the right of a state to have an armed militia, conferred an individual right to carry a loaded gun. Many constitutional experts hold that the amendment does not preclude gun-control legislation.
The NRA, which buys influence as a multimillion-dollar donor to the Republican Party, ridiculously claims that the true agenda of those who want gun control (and polls show the majority of Americans do) is to “destroy all freedoms”. The extent of the NRA’s perverse view of humanity is suggested by a claim from one of its leaders after the Florida massacre that the media love mass shootings because they sell news.
But might there be cause for optimism? Perhaps a tipping point is being reached. Led by students armed with anger and well-based argument, young people and adults around the country are rising up. Nationwide protests are being organised. Some states have taken tentative steps that are yielding benefits. While the number of guns is up, the percentage of Americans owning guns has declined.
The case for curbing gun ownership is compelling, and based on evidence and ethics. The argument for the status quo is irrational, based on ideology and, frankly, idiocy. It is too late for too many, but change will eventually come, driven by a groundswell that will become irresistible to all but the most reckless politicians.
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