Naomi Law reflects on gun legislation and its role in the US elections in the aftermath of the Oregon shooting.

In 2011, the shooting of 19 U.S representatives at a congressional event was deemed ‘a tragedy for [our] entire country’ by Barack Obama. The Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting in 2012, resulting in the shooting of 10 individuals, rendered the response that ‘ tragic events are happening with too much regularity’. Following the 2013 Navy Yard shooting of 15 military professionals Obama expressed his disdain against the ‘unimaginable violence that they wouldn’t have expected here at home.’After 11 mass shootings and 11 speeches, the U.S president finally acknowledged earlier this year that ‘somehow this has become routine’. Bloodshed is splashed across the U.S map from East to West and spread through decades of American culture. After each of these events, a surge of short term outcry and debate on gun legislation occurs.

However, it takes mere days for victims to be forgotten and societal life to continue, as this gun-related homicide epidemic becomes part of the backdrop of American life. For years, it has been wondered as to how this problem has not spread transatlantically to the U.K, just like other aspects of American culture. It is impossible to attribute the cause of sky high gun rates and public massacre to media violence and mental illness in America, considering how we all play the same video games (90% of all titles released on to the market in the UK do not abide to any classification restrictions of violence) and tackle the same mental health issues (major depression, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder are the most prevalent conditions in both countries).

Whilst it is true that the UK does have a fervent illegal gun trade industry, guns are simply less accessible here than in the U.S. Currently in America, anyone over the age of 18 is allowed to buy a rifle or shotgun from a licensed dealer in any state. Over-21s are able to buy handguns, too. At a federal level, gun control laws are permissive on account of brutally effective advocating from gun lobby campaigns, particularly that of the National Rifle association. In 1986 the group passed the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act. In 2004, they successfully lobbied for the Federal Assault Weapons Bans expiration.

The NRA have been, and will remain, a political force to be feared. According to the Gun Violence Archive of 2014, there were 12,551 incidents of fatalities caused by gun violence in America. In that same year, there were only 619 gun murders in the UK, according to the Citizens Report. When one in three U.S. citizens know someone who has been shot, we must wonder–when will enough be enough? At what point will the nation reject gun culture as the American way? Due to formal law-making processes, however, Obama cannot pass anti-gun laws unchallenged, similar to the lawmaking processes in the UK. Congress support is a prerequisite and given the percentage of Republican seat holders in US Senate and Congress, gun legislation remains lax.

In the upcoming 2016 presidential elections, we can expect to see democratic voices regarding gun violence rising throughout Washington D.C. Presidential frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, has set the tone early in her campaign, calling for ‘common sense gun reforms’ after a mass shooting at a historically African-American church in Charleston. Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, commented ‘Hillary is so ideological that she seems oblivious to the reality of gun-control politics’. Opposing republican Donald Trump’s standpoint matches his self-definition of ‘a very strong person on the Second Amendment’ that reads ‘the Right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed’. Whilst socialist democrat, Bernie Sanders, calls for ‘instant background checks: no guns for criminals or unstable’, republican candidate, Jeb Bush, retorts ‘99.999% of people should be able to keep their guns’.

If America wishes to see a decrease in the amount of homicidal gun-related deaths that plagues the ‘land of opportunity’, it seems that the aim of the 2016 presidential elections should be to override undertones of the U.S. constitution that condone careless administration regarding weaponry. Whilst the prospect of a republican future seemingly protects the second amendment and contributes little to gun control activism, can we really guarantee that the democratic party will not repeat previous president Bill Clinton’s reversed progress as his implemented gun laws were ruled unconstitutional? Regardless, it is clear that the upcoming elections will play a key role in changing American attitudes of fatalism. Through the 2016 election results, the progress of American gun laws will either be encouraged, or prevented from catching up with the rest of the world.



Naomi Law



Featured Image: Gun Show In Houston Texas