As the world watches in fascinated horror at America’s repeated mass shootings, President Donald Trump makes noise about tougher gun controls, then subsides into silence, fearing the loss of financial and political support of the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA).
But while the president may have more to lose than most – his base is considered to be populated with gun owners – it is a common mantra for politicians to thunder about stricter firearms legislation after events like Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children aged six and seven and six adults were gunned down in 2012.
Yet the fiery rhetoric about enacting tougher gun laws after the massacre was quietly extinguished. A few months after Sandy Hook, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013and a law that would require universal background checks, were both rejected by the US Senate.
There was some action at the state level, though, with background checks initiated in four states that did not have them before, and strengthened checks in seven others. That brought the total to 18 states out of 50 participating in background checks
But a stumbling block to enact tougher gun laws is the American Constitution, bestowing the right to bear arms upon Americans. The provision is used time and again as a shield to limit legislation.
One group has taken substantive action with the NRA dead in its sights.
Earlier this month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors – an 11-member body that oversees the county government – was so disturbed by recent mass shootings that members voted unanimously to declare the NRA a “domestic terrorist organization.”
“The NRA exists to spread pro-gun propaganda and put weapons in the hands of those who would harm and terrorize us,” Supervisor Catherine Stefani said.
While the move has no force in law, “I firmly believe that words matter and I think this is a step in fighting the negative impact of the NRA,” she said.
The NRA response was to sue San Francisco, arguing that the city declaration violated its free speech rights. The matter is in the courts.
Those against stricter gun laws, including the NRA, often say the states that beefed-up gun laws have not deterred shootings.
For example, they point to the Gilroy Food Festival shooting in California this past July. California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, but a 19-year-old armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle managed to kill three young people and wound 12 others. It was only thanks to quick action by the police who shot the assailant that prevented more deaths.
But the problem is that while California has strict firearms legislation, nearby Nevada’s laws are much less restrictive. In California, you must be 21 to purchase a rifle. The teen shooter at Gilroy bought the gun legally in Nevada, where the age to purchase a rifle is 19.
And that is a crucial factor, because guns can be legally bought in some states and the weapons can be transported to states that have stricter laws, circumventing those laws.
In other words, every state needs to get on the same page. Federally, stricter gun legislation is a non-starter, as Republicans and Trump line up with the NRA.
To say the gun culture is deeply embedded in America is an understatement.
In 2018 the Small Arms Survey found that with a population of 320 million, US citizens have about 393 million guns, almost half the world total. The AR-15 semiautomatic – the main weapon used at Sandy Hook – is the most popular gun in America. It can fire 45 rounds a minute, but modified it can dispense nine rounds per second, more than 500 bullets a minute.
Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke said during a candidate debate earlier in September, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15.”
A Republican lawmaker responded with, “My AR is ready for you….”
The stricter gun law proponents only fire verbal bullets and the NRA continues to financially support politicians with pro-gun attitudes.
Meanwhile, 40,000 Americans died by the gun in 2017, about 24,000 by suicide
The mayhem continues.