After the shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, May 24, each side made its usual statements: Democrats called for laws to limit access to guns, while Republicans repeated that this “It’s the people who kill, not the guns” a phrase meant to prove that easy access to guns isn’t the problem.
The opposition was the same ten years ago, after the Sandy Hook shootings. At the time, this massacre, which killed twenty-six people, including twenty children killed in their primary school, did not convince the Republicans to support any federal regulation. The proposed laws, however, were not sweeping: they included better background checks on purchasers, as well as banning semi-automatic assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. But under the influence of the NRA, the gun lobby, the majority of the Republican Party considers any restrictions, even those supported by a majority of Americans, as a dangerous step towards a general confiscation. A climate of paranoia is maintained on channels like Fox News, and after each shooting, many Americans convinced that it will become more difficult to arm themselves rush to stores to buy guns.
In his remarks after the Uvalde tragedy, President Joe Biden called for laws “common sense”such as the assault rifle ban: ” I have enough. We need to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage.” he launched. The American president recalled that in 1994, under the presidency of Bill Clinton, a federal ban on assault rifles had reduced this kind of killing, before expiring in 2004 during the presidency of George W. Bush which n didn’t see fit to extend it.
Shootings tripled after ban was lifted
And yet, researchers like Louis Klarevas of Columbia University have shown that during the ten years these weapons were banned, the number of deaths in mass shootings fell by 43% compared to the previous decade and that the number of shootings had tripled after the ban was lifted. On the other hand, when The New York Times asked a panel of 32 experts which measures would be most effective in limiting deaths, banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines came in first place. Despite these encouraging results, such a law would not obtain the necessary votes today in the Senate, where 60 votes out of 100 are required, which would involve convincing ten Republicans. But on this issue, the American right refuses to compromise because defending this right has become a question of identity, a real subculture celebrated by the Republican electorate. And in the Senate, conservative, pro-gun rural states wield disproportionate influence relative to their population. Elected officials representing a minority of Americans can therefore prevent the passage of measures supported by the majority.
Thus, the Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz immediately accused the Democrats of wanting to exploit the situation in order to “restrict the right to arms of law-abiding people”. For Republicans, any attempt at regulation is seen as a “politicization” immorality of innocent deaths. Like most of his colleagues, Cruz said more armed guards were needed at schools, even though two police officers failed to arrest the killer in Uvalde, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott spoke mental health crisis. A magazine marked on the right even suggested that home schooling could be a solution to avoid school shootings… Everything is considered, except the restriction of access to weapons.
A debate that comes up several times a year in the United States: ten days before Uvalde, a racist massacre had killed ten people in a supermarket in Buffalo. After two shootings in 2021 (10 dead in a Colorado supermarket and eight dead in a massage parlor in Atlanta a week apart), Joe Biden had called for restoring the federal ban on assault rifles, used in the most of these tragedies. The killer of Uvalde was indeed able to legally buy two semi-automatic AR-15 rifles, as well as 375 cartridges, a few days after his 18 years.
Lawsuits against arms manufacturers
Are there solutions? Faced with these obstacles, some progress is being made at the local level. Eight Democratic states have implemented assault rifle bans, but these restrictions are not always enough. So even in a state where the ban is in effect, the racist Buffalo killer was able to buy a gun which he then modified to hold more cartridges. Also in New York, a law that since 1913 has limited the issuance of licenses to carry concealed weapons could be declared unconstitutional in June by the Supreme Court, dominated by conservatives.
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After his election in 2020, Joe Biden signed a few arms control decrees, including a ban on those sold as kits on the Internet (untraceable “ghost guns”). But in the US federal system, with conservative states fiercely defending their independence, restrictions cannot be imposed by executive order. The room for maneuver is therefore limited, and some activists are trying new strategies. This is how in February 2022, parents of Sandy Hook victims won their lawsuit against the arms manufacturer Remington, found responsible for the shooting and ordered to pay 73 million dollars in compensation, a first in the States. -United. And in California, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is ironically inspired by the Texas abortion law, which gives citizens the power to sue those who facilitate abortions, by proposing a law that will allow citizens to easily sue arms manufacturers. In short, when compromise in Congress is impossible, elected officials and activists, frustrated by decades of inaction, try to innovate, targeting companies that make profits by promoting weapons of war…