The United States continues to cling to the theory that carrying a gun is a constitutional right, while the types of weapons being carried and used are now totally out of proportion with what the founders anticipated when they believed that the right to bear arms was necessary.
Every time the US is faced with a mass shooting, promises are made to the public that every action will be taken to ensure that tragedies like the Colorado theatre shooting will never happen again. Despite this, an estimated 9,9960 people were killed with a firearm in 2010, a rate of 3.2 per cent per 100,000 people.
Mass shootings aside, the estimated total number of guns held by civilians in the United States both legally and illegally purchased is believed to be between 270 million and 310 million, according to the International firearm injury prevention and policy group.
President Obama has been trying for some time to introduce stricter guns laws but proposals have been repeatedly rejected by the Senate, leaving the debate open as to what it would take for him to succeed with this critical agenda.
Iwan Morgan, Professor of US Studies and Head of US Programmes at the Institute of the Americas said:
“It’s difficult for a president to do that because he has so many things on his agenda, Obama has committed himself to gun control but he can’t invest all his resources in that task when there are so many other issues facing him.”
Professor Morgan has been published widely in various fields of modern US political history and in political economy with most of his work having presidential focus. He elaborates:
“His biggest obstacle is getting the legislation through the US congress and there simply aren’t the votes there. The gun lobby is very powerful; the best that can be hoped for in the short term is for the existing laws to be more efficiently and strongly enforced and for the Clinton law on assault weapons to be re-authorized.
“Even at that the gun lobby takes any concession as opening the door to vastly more significant reforms so they will hold their ground against any reform however limited and reasonable.”
Even after tragic incidents such as the Sandy hook elementary shooting, public opinion has still not sustained a big enough change to cause the introduction of a new bill. Research has revealed that while around 49 per cent of Americans think it is important to control gun ownership, the rest thought it was more important to protect civil liberties.
Professor Morgan said: “ You come down to this very difficult argument for outsiders to understand. The public believes that widespread gun ownership is necessary for personal security so the argument that is always used in the States is if teachers had carried guns, the various massacres wouldn’t have happened.”
Even with the majority backing of the public after tragedy strikes, Obama seems to be fighting a losing battle. The Senate has managed to successfully defeat any proposals that could lead to a ban of military assault rifles and limit the size of ammunition magazines. The senate’s pull didn’t end there; they also refused to expand background checks to most gun sales leading Obama to call it “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
Morgan expands as to the reasoning behind such verdicts: “It boils down to this, with each state regardless of how big a state you are, you only have two representatives in the Senate so New York senators may be in favour of gun law but if you go west to small states like Nebraska or Kansas who are pro-gun, their votes count equally.
With some politicians they realise that if they risked supporting gun control, they would more than likely lose their seats so the way the political system is snapped up at the moment is that the prospects of reform are nil.
“It will require the domestic equivalent of a kind of 9/11 to bring about change. In the current system, the status quo is fixed.”
It remains to be seen if Obama can win against such insurmountable odds.
This article was originally produced for Gen Y Times.