In the land of weapons with milk and honey
Due to dead children, the system does not change
By Roland Peters
28 May 2022, at 18.17
The horror in the United States and elsewhere in the act that killed 19 elementary school children is great, and there are numerous demands for stricter gun laws. But what will probably happen in the end: nothing. It’s not just about lobbyists and the political system.
Within ten days, 31 people died in two horrific acts in the United States, including 19 children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. “They died like on a battlefield, my God,” said US President Joe Biden, shocked by the gun-friendly massacre in the state. “Losing a child is like having a part of his soul torn out.” Biden knows what he’s talking about, he even lost his son Beau a few years ago. The president says he will pray for the family. “When are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in the name of God are we going to do what we all know and feel needs to be done?”
Biden exaggerates when he says “everyone”; according to a MorningConsult survey, 65 percent of U.S. citizens are in favor of greater restrictions on gun ownership, but yes: there is a clear majority for generally stricter handling. Only 28 percent are against. Nevertheless, it is clear to the United States and all who are concerned that even after these 31 dead people, nothing or almost nothing will change, especially not through prayer, the typical “thoughts and prayers” in response to gun dramas. This has long been the code of passivity in gun law. If you do not want to do anything, just let them know you want to pray.
A majority is also in favor of a ban on so-called assault weapons. These are semi-automatic weapons that Biden explicitly named because they bring the largest profit margins to the defense industry. In particular, the ruling Democrats are in favor of stricter gun laws, while Republicans are against them. But the majority and their political representatives are running up against a legislative wall in the U.S. Senate. A 60 percent majority is required for such a project, but it is not in sight. Even if the Democrats had it, there is a good chance that someone from their own ranks would torpedo the project to advance their own agenda in exchange for maximum dilution.
Weakened NRA, established culture
The National Rifle Organization (NRA) is one of the most powerful civilian organizations in the country, channeling the interests of gun owners and those who deem them necessary. It may have lost some of its influence in recent years and is no longer moving as much money as it did in 2016, when it paid around $ 54 million for the election campaign, primarily for incoming President Donald Trump. The gun lobby of the NRA and others then invested about $ 33 million in the 2020 presidential election. One of the main goals: prevent stricter laws against gun owners.
The majority of donors to the NRA’s Victory Fund campaign organization in 2019 were retirees. In the first survey in 2003, it was still 40 percent. In addition to skyrocketing litigation costs and allegations of corruption, the NRA’s problems include losing members. Therefore, according to the American trade magazine “The Reload”, the NRA’s premium income fell to $ 165.2 million last year, $ 19.4 million lower than the organization had expected. A spokeswoman for the NRA said many issues had to do with the pandemic, but the organization was stronger than ever: “We promote the constitutional right to bear arms, the gold standard of self-defense.” At the annual meeting, several Republicans are raising the microphone these days. Texas Senator Ted Cruz appeared in Houston, as did former President Donald Trump. For them, owning a gun is a means to an end.
NRA activism has in its own way married gun owners to Republicans. In their positive view, the gun owner is a concerned citizen in the best sense of the word, defending himself, his family and defenseless fellow human beings against the dangers out there. Which thereby exercises a constitutional right, which means protection of life, not danger or death. Republicans, and especially Trump in recent years, have charged this nostalgic understanding of freedom with their anti-elite rhetoric. It nurtures the feeling that Democrats in the cities are ignorant of real American life outside of it, but still want to dictate how everyone else should live.
About one-third of Americans own a firearm, one-third would consider it, and one-third completely rule it out. The gunmen are predominantly men, whites, Republicans and live in rural areas. Most have multiple weapons at home, most for security reasons. The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the Constitution guarantees this throughout the country, although the laws on carrying weapons outside your home vary widely across states. Ted Cruz, for example, recently smashed Democrats’ demands for stricter nationwide rules. Democrats tried to restrict constitutional rights for law-abiding citizens.
stalemate in the Senate, Supreme Court
From the perspective of progressive Democrats, the arms debate also highlights the flaws in the political system that the Senate uses to block progressive legislation. There, the sparsely populated, rural, and predominantly Republican states are overrepresented. A state has two senators, whether it has 40 million people (California) or 600,000 (Wyoming). This representative imbalance was originally intended to protect the elites from the influence of the broad, uneducated population, but also to protect the interests of rural areas from urban dominance. Many Republicans still see the latter in this way today, and this is also reflected in the election results. Roughly speaking, Democrats are more likely to win in the cities and Republicans will win in the countryside.
The imbalance in the Senate first becomes dramatic with the filibuster: an endless speech that anyone can give if they want to overthrow a legislative project. It can only be concluded with a 60 percent majority. There is always a question of changing filibusters, but it would also require the 60 per cent. So the cat bites its own tail, because why should anyone agree to curtail their own influence if they do not have to?
In addition, the conservative dominance of the Supreme Court, which has so far been cemented by the new appointments under Trump. The Supreme Court may soon extend the rights of gun owners further. The specific case is about carrying weapons in New York, which the plaintiffs believe should be allowed – it is, after all, guaranteed by the Constitution, and the corresponding ban by the state is therefore ineffective. A Supreme Court ruling could set a precedent for the entire United States. The United States is a paradise for gun fans even without such a verdict.
More cases than ever before
More than 45,000 people died from gunfire in the United States by 2020; 54 percent of them committed suicide, 43 percent were shot. The figures are high by American standards, but not record high. In the 1970s, more people died from guns in the United States relative to the population than today. However, it is massacres like in Texas that are becoming exclamation points for the public debate. There have been more and more of them in recent times, and the number of single perpetrators with more victims has increased in recent years. The FBI counted three such cases in 2000 and 40 in 2020, more than ever before.
In recent years, anti-arms lobby groups have gained influence, which also has to do with greater economic spending. In 2020, they spent a record $ 23.5 million. But at the top of politics, they are still doing little because of the balance of power in the Senate and the systemic boundaries. So the Republicans are on the side of the gun owners, the Democrats are getting nowhere with their projects. President Biden, some say, could simply issue orders or declare a public health emergency and take countermeasures given the death toll from gun violence. In either case, however, it would be easy to regret this. And the next election is only a few months away.