Where’s the hope and change that many in the U.S. call for every time some crazy gunman strikes? Barack Obama, who rode to power on the catchy marketing slogan of hope and change seven years ago, always gives an impassioned speech on the need to put an end to unrestricted sales of semiautomatic assault rifles, in particular. He did so after the massacre of first-graders at a Connecticut primary school (2012), after the carnage in a black church in Charleston (2015), and after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino (2015).
From over here in Europe, where we shake our heads over it all, we echo his sentiment in droves. But in the end, everything somehow incomprehensibly ends up under his desk or under that of congressmen and senators, except cosmetic brush-ups, maybe those that Obama has just proposed. He’s determined to tighten the licensing of gun dealers. That’s nice – but it clearly won’t change anything.
It would be too simple to lay everything on Obama’s doorstep, or to mull over his apparently feeble ability to assert his will because his predecessors also failed to get anywhere on the availability of arms. Actually, while we’re on the subject, it would be more interesting to ponder how it’s possible that, during his term in office, the number of Americans who support the constitutionally embedded right to access arms has risen. In particular, the percentage of Republicans who reject any basic limitations has increased. Isn’t that how racial intolerance has sharpened and political polarization became more acute, things which Obama himself promised to eliminate?
Let’s leave Obama and his influence on history aside. The bitter paradox is that the vast majority of Americans, regardless of political orientation, agree with a certain restriction on sales, i.e. the introduction of something in the way of gun-owner’s IDs, whose bearers would have to pass psychological tests.
Only nothing happens, even at the level of individual states. The reason lies in the deeply rooted idea that people should ensure their own security and not rely on the police. That’s why, after the massacres, you can hear many voices, unfathomable to us, calling for even greater liberalization of gun sales. If everyone was armed, people assert, even directors of schools and dormitories (look out!), they could defend against an attacker.
It’s a political culture whose origins can be traced back to the era of settling the Wild West. It may seem inconsistent to us, even suicidal, but the fact is that no leader has yet appeared on the American scene who could solve this issue in any way, even to reduce the number of attacks.