History | Citizenship

‘In God’s name, stand up to the gun lobby’

Will America ever stop the killing? The world is in shock after a horrific mass shooting at a school in Texas that killed 19 children aged between 7 and 10, and two adults. Joe Biden’s voice was full of emotion. “I’d hoped when I became president that I would not have to do this again,” he began. “As a nation we have to ask: ‘When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?’” Biden was talking about the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday. The killer was an 18-year-old man armed with a handgun and a semi-automatic rifle. It was the 27th school shooting in the US this year, and the worst since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, when 20 children and six teachers were killed. The problem is obvious. It is ridiculously easy to buy incredibly powerful guns in the US, even if you are mentally ill. But a recent poll found that only 52% of Americans favoured tighter controls. On Tuesday Senator Ted Cruz said that restricting the rights of “law-abiding citizens… doesn’t prevent crime.” To people like Cruz, gun ownership is a sacred legacy of the American War of Independence. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution rules that “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.”  After the American Civil War, manufacturers left with surplus guns persuaded ordinary shops to sell them. They advertised guns as a way of giving boys “sturdy manliness”. In the 20th Century, gangster warfare and political assassinations, such as that of President Kennedy, led to strong support for gun control. But worries about rising crime led more people to buy guns – and many were persuaded that they needed military-style weapons. Opinion is now largely divided along political lines. While 91% of Democrats support stricter controls, only 24% of Republicans do.   Will America ever stop the killing? Trigger warning Yes: Every situation has a tipping point, and this is it. The US has a president committed to gun control, and after the latest tragedy, there will be enough public support to pass the necessary laws. No: Politicians are too worried about losing gun owners’ votes. Previous terrible incidents have not produced changes. Even if Biden could achieve new controls, the next president could reverse them.    Or... So many Americans now own guns, and so many commit suicide with them, that the manufacturers could run out of customers and start selling protection such as body armour instead.  KeywordsSandy Hook - The killings at the Connecticut school were carried out by a 20-year-old using a semi-automatic rifle owned by his mother, whom he also killed.

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