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L'Express, France

The Thought of Control Has Strengthened
American’s Appetite for Weapons”

By Jonathan Mann

Translated By Gillian Wright

18 January 2013

Edited by Kyrstie Lane

France - L'Express - Original Article (French)

American President Barack Obama cannot put an end to the armed violence epidemic that is affecting the U.S. by himself. He therefore called for the help of Americans and politicians this week. “It will be difficult,” he said. “The most important changes we can make depend on Congressional action. They need to bring these proposals up for a vote and the American people need to make sure that they do.”

The country has been waiting for a month for Obama to act, since the moment he promised, with tears in his eyes, to use everything in his power to avoid a massacre similar to the one in Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were killed in a primary school. But his powers are limited. The U.S. president can only exercise the authority that the American Constitution and the laws adopted by Congress allow him. However, this authority is not enough to put Obama’s vision into action.

Even though he released 23 directives – which will lead to an increase in budgets for research on armed violence and the improvement of security measures in schools – he called for Congress to adopt what he refers to as the most important measures: restoring national prohibition – today obsolete – on assault rifles, and making controls over the sale of all weapons obligatory, including private sellers to private buyers.

It seems highly unlikely that Congress will support the president’s plans. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives is opposed to most policies undertaken by the president, and gun control is no exception. The Democrats, a close majority in the Senate, are also unable to decide. Sources from their camp have confided in CNN journalist Dana Bash that many Democrats living in conservative states will probably be opposed to the majority of the president’s propositions, for fear of a backlash in the next elections. The party already attributes several failures, including that of Al Gore in the 2000 presidential elections, to previous efforts in support of gun control.

The recent attempt has already had ironic consequences: the idea of new control measures has apparently reinforced American’s appetites for weapons and their determination to keep them. In the month that followed the president’s promises, national and local estimates suggest a record increase in the sale of weapons. The National Rifle Association, the most powerful lobby for weapons owners and manufacturers, boasted about having added some 250,000 new members to its 4.25 million supporters.

Our surveys lead us to believe that public opinion changed slightly last month. The majority of Americans say they are favorable to measures on gun control, but they are less numerous than on the day after the Connecticut shooting: in the last CNN/Time/ORC poll, there was 56 percent in favor of the prohibition of semi-automatic weapons such as the AK-47, against an initial 62 percent.

These figures do not tell us the entire story. In the U.S., like in many other democracies, a majority does not do anything. A minority can bring change if it is sufficiently motivated and organized. Motivated and organized firearm owners have thwarted efforts to control firearms, convincing legislators and judges to extend access to arms. President Obama is opposed to a strong current in American politics. He knows that he cannot succeed without one hell of a helping hand.



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