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Millennium Post

Chance to course-correct

The truly horrifying thing about gun violence in America is that there is no way to tell just how widespread it is. The American government literally does not track these numbers due to political reasons. In 1997, the National Rifle Association (NRA) successfully lobbied Congress to block federal funding towards the CDC (Centres for Disease Control) study of gun violence in America. Since then the laws have only made the process even harder as a roadblock against any gun regulation measures. What we do know is that America has the highest instance of gun violence in any developed nation. The brutal mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado this week came a mere three days after the three spas shooting in Atlanta, but was actually just one of seven such events that took place over a week. Most gun crimes in America do not get reported on like the major events do but they still happen out of sight. The pandemic may have given the appearance that gun violence had gone down in America but in fact, major gun violence actually saw a record high last year. In 2020, gun violence killed over 20,000 Americans and injured another 40,000. This does not include the other 24,000 or so that committed suicide with a gun. There are communities in America where gun violence is a daily reality. It is hard to think about but there are few safe places left where meaningless gun violence cannot simply shatter the daily lives of an entire community.

But gun violence and regulation is a polarising issue in America. The NRA and its supporters vehemently oppose all attempts at regulating gun manufacturing, sale and possession. It is especially during such horrifying tragedies such as mass shootings that the NRA battens down the hatches and prepares to fend off public outrage and grief. Their response? The only way to counter gun violence is to have more people with guns. Some variation of this response has been the mainstay of the NRA and its croney politicians talking points for decades. The organisation had gained almost mythic status in US politics during the 20th century as it gained an efficient and wide-ranging system of influencing pro-gun policy and striking down gun regulation. NRA is even trying to take its influence abroad. It seems as if the organisation will continue peddling the paranoid nightmare where everyone is safe when everyone is armed and unsafe. But maybe there is hope yet.

A notably anti-NRA President is in office. Public outrage against gun-violence is steadily building up into a fever pitch. Even the NRA itself isn't quite what it used to be. The organisation is falling back due to drying up donations, internal power struggles and increased public scrutiny at just how the organisation operates. There could be a real opportunity to push back the influence of the organisation over Congress. In his speech following the Boulder shooting, Biden strongly urged both houses of Congress to pass common-sense gun legislation post haste. This would include legislation for universal background checks for nearly all firearms and an immediate ban on assault-type weapons such as the one thought to have been used in the Boulder shooting. But Biden is sure to run into difficulties in the Senate where his majority is razor-thin. Republican senators who disagree with the gun control legislation can simply filibuster the process., making it so that that bills cannot pass without a 60 vote majority. This would require 10 Republicans to actually side with the Democrats which, needless to say, is highly unlikely. Biden can also try to ram the background checks and such through by way of an executive order but it is unknown just what the reaction would be to such heavy-handed political play. Republicans have, at least on the surface, agreed to negotiate what could be added as a new regulation without specifically promising any major concession from their side. The big hope is that recent Gallup and Pew Research Foundation polls have shown that a growing majority of Americans are in favour of stricter gun legislation in some form or fashion.

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