Early September 16th 2013, an armed gunmen opened fire in the Washington Navy Yard in the heart of the American capital- killing 12 persons, and injuring many more. The killer was Aaron Alexis, a 34 year-old Navy contractor and former Navy reservist from Fort Worth Texas, of whom the Rhode Island police had warned Navy officials that he had been hearing voices inside his head during a recent business trip to the state. Unfortunately, this event is nothing but another entry in a long string of mass shootings that have plagued the United States for the past two decades. So much so that President Obama was inclined to use the words “yet another mass shooting”, as if to confirm that they have now become part of everyday life. The central question remains, however: what is the U.S. government going to do to stop them?
By the looks of it, not much. If the death of twenty children in Newton, Connecticut did not prompt the federal government into passing any sensible gun control laws, it’s highly unlikely the additional death of these 12 people will do anything either. Most of the resistance against gun-control can be attributed to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Originally created in 1871 by retired Union Soldiers, the NRA started off as an organization advocating responsible gun ownership and sportsmanship up until the late 1970s, when a radical right-wing coup took over the organization. From that point on, the NRA became a lobbying power house representing the views of the guns manufacturers as opposed to those of actual gun owners. One of the consequences of this take-over was the promotion of a new aggressive take on the Second Amendment, claiming that the amendment promises American citizens an indisputable and limitless right to bear arms. This is particularly problematic seeing as there have been at least 16 mass shootings since Newton, according to the FBI’s optimistic definition of mass murder as being a single instance where 4 or more people are killed (not including the shooter himself). Extend that definition to include 12 people or more, and you are looking at a total of 12 massacres in the entire history of the United States, six of which have occurred within the last six years alone.
The trouble is how do you pass any law that regulates an amendment now often considered more sacred than freedom of speech? It is clear that this change will not come about through congress, where a total of 213 members received donations from the NRA in the 2012 congressional races in return for a promise not to violate the sanctity of the second amendment. The extent of the NRA’s influence in Washington is perhaps best expressed in the views of republican representative Louis Gohmert, who, in an interview following the Navy Yard shootings, said: “blaming this on guns is like saying that the big problem with obesity is [that] we’ve got too many spoons. It’s not the spoons, it’s not the guns, it’s the people who have them.” In other words, guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Needless to say, the congressmen went on to blame video games as the main motivating factor behind these killings, blatantly omitting the fact that many of these individuals, who are clearly unqualified to bear arms, had easy access to weapons because of the actions of politicians like himself who have consistently blocked all attempts at passing laws that would make it harder for potential mass murderers to commit these atrocities in the first place.
Hope is not completely lost, however. Though the federal government remains incompetent in its inability to pass gun-control legislation, some states have taken the initiative into their own hands. Following the shootings at Newton, for example, the states of Connecticut, Colorado, and Maryland, passed their own gun laws that included submitting finger prints to state police. It seems that, for the time being, if there is ever to be any change in gun-control legislation in America, it will be up to the states, not the federal government, to make it happen.
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