Time and again, there is a succession of prayers for the innocent victims, calls to action and the cruel obstruction of any change.
Too many massacres have taken place in elementary schools, high schools and colleges in the United States to lend credence to the outcry by the Republican Party after the tragedy that an 18-year-old youth unleashed at a primary school in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen children and two teachers are dead. The public dismay that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz displayed seems more like an exercise in political cynicism; both men are on the front line of the opposition that has made it impossible to limit and regulate gun ownership, as they invoke the constitutional right to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment, ratified in 1791.*
There are close to 400 million guns in the hands of private individuals in the United States, more than one weapon per adult citizen. At the same time, opinion polls have concluded for some time that most of the population is in favor of enacting gun control measures. But despite those facts and despite the debate that follows every time innocent lives are lost, Barack Obama could not overcome the barrier that Senate Republicans built to defeat restrictions on gun ownership, and Joe Biden — despite his calls to “stand up to” the arms industry — is doomed to go through the same thing.
Basketball coach Steve Kerr was not exaggerating when he said that 50 Republican senators have kidnapped Americans, willing as they are to do anything in their power so that nothing changes with regard to owning guns. To change gun laws, at least 10 Republican senators would have to vote with their Democratic colleagues, something that is utterly unimaginable. The first and most immediate reason why Republicans will not vote with Democrats is that they fear electoral consequences if current gun laws are changed, particularly in the South and Midwest, where owning guns is part of an individual and collective identity. The second reason why Republicans won’t join Democrats in changing gun laws has to do with pressure from the gun manufacturers’ lobby and the powerful National Rifle Association, which flood Republican candidates with large donations every election.
In addition to this and the legacy Donald Trump left behind on the issue of gun ownership, the great paradox is that gun ownership, which was originally grounded in concerns about security, has actually become a permanent hotbed issue of insecurity, the cause of myriad tragedies and a moral challenge in a society that is irreconcilably divided and where its children are often the unwitting victims. As Biden asked, suggesting how helpless this country is, “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”
*Editor’s Note: The Second Amendment provides: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”