Gun control and gun lobby in the United States

Gun control and gun lobby in the United States

Firearms kill more Americans than wars, AIDS and terrorists. Why Washington can’t change that situation?

Mass shootings of the 2000s and 2010s years shocked the whole country and rocked the pendulum of public opinion in the direction of tightening control over the trade and possession of firearms in the United States. After the shooting in a school in Parkland, which killed 17 people, the level of support for tougher arms trafficking reached a record high of about 67%. However, forces for change in the current legislation, repeatedly fail because of the powerful and well-organized resistance to the gun lobby and its allies in Congress. TASS explains why, despite the tragedy at “sandy hook”, Orlando and Las Vegas, U.S. lawmakers are unable to take even the most elementary measures to restrict the carrying of weapons.

Enduring amendment

The right of citizens to keep and bear firearms guarantees the Second amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was adopted in 1789 and enacted in 1791-m (included in the bill of rights). Fully it reads:

For the security of a free state requires a well-organized militia (“militia” — approx. TASS), the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

This amendment allows the exercise of the right of the people to insurrection, embodied in the text of the Declaration of independence.

“Militia” referred to in the text of the amendment is nothing like local law enforcement is relied on by States (in its present form is, in fact, the national guard). When the U.S. Constitution was drafted, some regions were concerned that the Federal government will have too much power over the local militia. At that time the police not only engaged in the maintenance of law and order and defence, but also, for example, control of slaves in those States where slavery was allowed.

Since the adoption of the amendment, the courts issued several restrictive interpretations, including the concepts of “militia”, “right of people” to “keep and bear arms” and so on. There were battles between the two “camps” interpreters of the Second amendment:

  • “Collective” approach, which implies the right to keep and bear arms only in a “well organized militia”;.
  • “Individual” approach applied that extrapolate the constitutional right to keep and bear arms in private to any citizen of the United States.

The winners were the supporters of the second paradigm, which was finally enshrined in the relevant decision of the constitutional court of the United States in 2008. To date, the carrying and possession of weapons have become the same fundamental and almost unlimited right of an American as the right to freedom of speech, press and Assembly.

The first limitation

It was not always so: in the initial stages of formation of the United States arms trafficking was tightly controlled in some States, produced a “census” and regular inspection of trunks, and the sale of firearms was prohibited for indigenous peoples and the loyalists — those who supported Britain in the War for independence. However, until the mid-1930s years, the Federal government played a very small role in these matters — he was assigned a Supervisory function over the local militias, but no more.

In 1934 — against the background of rising crime in the United States, the proclamation of the New course of Franklin Roosevelt and the extension of the powers of the Federal government, was passed the first law restricting arms trafficking. He banned the sale of machine guns, silencers and pistols of small size, which were actively used by the mafia.

The following restrictive measure followed only three decades later and became “the answer” for a number of high-profile murders that occurred in the 1960s (bullets killed John Kennedy, his brother Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther king).

The law On “gun control” in 1968 set a minimum age for purchasing weapons (18 for long rifles and 21 for short), was ordered to register gun owners, and manufacturers — to obtain a Federal license to manufacture, import and trade.

The struggle for the minds

Restrictive measures have caused strong concern of the fans of trunks. Their main mouthpiece was the national rifle Association (NRA) — one of the oldest (it was created in 1871) non-partisan and non-profit organizations to protect the rights of owners and arms dealers. Today it has nearly 5 million Americans.

Initially, the Association had United the sports of shooting and hunting and political Affairs was not engaged. In the first half of the twentieth century, the NRA organized shooting ranges, summer camps, and provided American soldiers their shooting range for training. Moreover, the organization supported the first restrictive measures 1934 and 1937 (and partly also in 1968).

A milestone in the history of the NRA began its annual Convention in Cincinnati (Ohio) in 1977. It passed the reins of power from the moderate fans of weapons to the more radical group of conservatives whose ideology was very simple: we cannot allow any attempt to change gun laws.

Two years earlier, when the NRA was created lobbying organization — the Institute for the law, headed by an avid shooter from Texas named Harlon Carter. The Association greatly increased its membership, has focused on political issues and started to form coalitions with conservative politicians, mostly Republicans.

The 1980 election gun lobbyists first appeared in the political field, supporting in the presidential election of Ronald Reagan, who himself was a member of the NRA.

Through such alliances, combined with lobbying by the NRA has managed to block almost all attempts to restrict the ability of Americans to buy weapons. In the mid-1990s, the Association has ensured that the government Center for control and prevention of diseases (CDC) has effectively blocked funding to study the problems associated with firearms. Because of NRA lobbyists, the Bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives (ATF) and are not able to acquire electronic database of gun owners — all the information about them is still stored on paper.

But most of all, the NRA has succeeded in the mobilization of supporters on the website of the Association you can complain to your state Congressman to the infringement of the rights guaranteed by the Second amendment, and learn about upcoming dates, review of the laws that potentially threaten free carrying and possession of weapons. Thanks to the activities of lobbyists, culture of arms has become an integral part of the conservative liberalism in the United States. And if in 1959, nearly 60% of Americans admitted the ban on the free bearing of arms, by 1980 their number decreased to 38% and now stands at only 23%.

“Kill not guns, and people”

The confrontation between supporters and opponents of the weapons entered a new phase with the presidency of Barack Obama. At the end of his first term, the tragedy occurred in an elementary school “sandy hook” and therefore his second term he started with the fight against the gun lobby. In January 2013, the President asked the Congress to approve the package of measures for a ban on the sale of multiply charged automatic rifles, limiting the volume of shops ten rounds; the verification of the identity of the buyer. The last item was the most popular among Americans, but in the end was not approved none of the three initiatives.

The President’s plan encountered fierce resistance from the Republican opposition in the House of representatives. Against these measures, along with most Republicans traditionally receive financial support from the gun lobby, made a few Democrats from the American heartland, where there is still a strong conservative sentiments.

Their main argument — “kill not the guns, and the people”, and there is no evidence that the restrictive measures will inevitably lead to a decline in the number of deaths from firearms.

Statistics suggests otherwise: in those States where the laws are more severe, the victims of firearms is less and Vice versa: the weaker the regulation, the more people are killed by bullets. However, even the most insignificant attempts to restrict gun rights, according to conservatives, look like a violation of the Second amendment.

For the year to the end of the presidency, Obama called his main disappointment of the unsuccessful attempts to amend part of American law on access to lethal weapons. According to him, the Americans are one of the leading Nations in the world that has no “laws of gun safety, common-sense, in spite of repeated mass murder.”

Points of contact

A promise to keep the Second amendment is one of the few points which match positions of Hillary Clinton and Donald trump in the presidential race. Clinton claimed that “the weapons of war have no place on the streets.” Without denying the need to preserve the Second amendment to the Constitution, it is proposed to intensify the screening of buyers and to introduce criminal liability of manufacturers and sellers for unlawful acquisition and use of weapons. In Clinton’s opinion, it is necessary to ensure that weapons do not fall into the hands of dangerous criminals, domestic abusers and mentally ill people.

In turn, the trump called the Second amendment “America’s first freedom” and also advocated the preservation of “this fundamental right”. However, his program involves not tightening, but on the contrary, the liberalization of existing rules for this during the race it is expected to have supported the NRA. In particular, if elected President, trump promised to cancel “zone without weapons” — the place in the US, where it is forbidden the carrying of weapons, for example in schools and colleges. Many members of the Republican party are of the opinion that it is these places often become the target of attacks, because people there cannot defend themselves with firearms.

After moving to the White house trump has not achieved the abolition of the “zones without weapons”, but vowed to continue to fight with the enemies of the Second amendment. In addition, in February 2017, trump signed a law abolishing the ban on the sale of weapons to people with mental disorders.

The problem is

As long as the Republicans control Congress, and Donald trump is President, expect the introduction of any significant restrictions on the proliferation of weapons pointless. In this regard, the supporters of restrictive measures suggest that under the current administration the situation with deaths from firearms will only get worse. After the shooting in Texas political opponents of the President again demanded to toughen the laws, but he just shrugged, to discuss it too early, and the problem is not the regulation of arms trafficking, and mental condition of the shooter.

However, attempts to cope with the spread of deadly weapons continues. In October 2017, the Democrats of the Senate made the bill eliminates a loophole that makes it easy to modify a semi-automatic weapon to the rate achieved rates of automatic weapons.

In February 2018, after the shooting in Florida, the President instructed the U.S. justice Department to develop a ban on devices that increase the rate of fire. We are talking about a complex type of butt with a trigger, which at a certain position acts on the trigger mechanism semi-automatic weapons in such a way that the arrow to make the shot, you do not need every time to press the trigger. Such weapons can produce up to 800 rounds a minute.

Such devices are already banned in California and Massachusetts. In another six States and the district of Columbia have laws prohibiting the sale of so-called assault rifles, which can be interpreted as a ban on such devices. Definite clarity in local legislation on this point.

National database of arms in the United States still does not exist, and the exact number of weapons in the hands of the population is unknown. According to research centre Small Arms Survey, 316 million people in the U.S. have nearly 280 million firearms. A year from bullets in the US killed about 30 thousand people. This figure includes 11.4 million murders and 19 thousand of suicides, and about 600 accidents. According to the American broadcaster NBC, as the result of firearms on average each day, killed 86 people.

Arthur Thunders