America’s Gun Problem

DE Adam Tismăneanu | 21.08.2019 - 21:21
Americans pay tribute and protest gun violence after the attacks in El Paso, Texas

For many in America who are not a gun enthusiasts, the country’s fascination with guns, and particularly military-grade ones, has been viewed as problematic in the modern world.


 Over the first weekend of August, white supremacist gunmen separately in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio caused mass terror as dozens of people collectively were mowed down, murdered and injured at a Walmart and bar, respectively.

In the hours and days following these shootings the political and media establishments have used airtime to offer “thoughts and prayers” to victims as is always done in America after a mass shooting. At this point, it is ritualistic in an extremely sadistic way, people even chastise politicians who offer their sympathies, and for good reason.

When the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre happened in late 2012, bipartisan lawmakers agreed to new legislation that they hoped would combat the issue of unstable people getting access to high-caliber firearms through background checks and banning certain gun extensions.

Unfortunately, this step that had bipartisan support did not happen because House Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, filibustered the agreement at the discretion of the National Rifle Association (NRA) who has almost all of the Republican Senators and Representatives on the payroll.

In a widely shared tweet from 2015, that seems to come back around at least once a month when a mass shooting catches national attention, Twitter user and writer Dan Hodges (@DPJHodges) wrote, “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

This statement has ultimately proven true. It does remain to be seen if the legislation that McConnell blocked in the aftermath of Sandy Hook would have made much of a difference. In many states, it is easier to get a gun than a driver’s license.

America’s gun problem runs so deep that one or two laws will not fix it, with the millions of legal and illegal firearms across America, guns are not going anywhere even if the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms) were eliminated tomorrow.

America’s obsession with guns leads those strong supporters of the Second Amendment to point to other reasons for these mass murders. In the case of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999 done by two angry white teens, gun-rights activists and the media, quickly pointed to violence in films and television.

Notoriously, Marilyn Manson’s music was pegged as the true cause for the violence by those same people; not the fact that two high schoolers were able to procure an absurd amount of firearms and ammunition.

Today, it appears absolutely nothing has changed with Republicans quick to blame video games (there are plenty of video games throughout Europe and Asia, why no mass shootings there?). In fact, it appears to have gotten much worse in the last two decades.

In the case of Columbine and other school shootings, the media paints white shooters as empathetic and victims of bullying, instead of what they truly are: terrorists.

The media and politicians have no problem calling members of ISIS or Al Qaeda terrorists (rightfully so) but they often refuse to use the same word for these young white men who have been responsible for the majority of mass shootings on American soil since Donald Trump took office in early 2017.

How is a young white man that writes a manifesto about how he wants to take his country back, posts it online then proceeds to kill more than 20 people any less of a terrorist than Jihadi John who posted videos of him beheading hostages for ISIS?

The media coverage of a white shooter versus any other type is stark but unsurprising. This is who America is and always has been. Under Trump, this has been amplified. White supremacist shooters feel empowered, we know this because they literally say so themselves, creating mass carnage in the name of “taking their country back.”

For many of these shooters, they even state that Trump is not extreme enough. While white supremacist violence is on the rise, clearly empowered by Trump, the right-wing media and political echo-chambers that do not believe in any positives of multiculturalism, the answer will never be censorship. It might appear to help in the short-term but it is even more against the country’s ideals than reworking the Second Amendment and gun laws.

NRA and gun enthusiasts claim to be advocates for protecting the rights of Americans yet the theory of “a good guy with a gun can stop a bad one” hasn’t proven to be effective.

The truth is, the Second Amendment was written in a time before the Founding Fathers could have even imagined automatic assault rifles or bump stocks or nuclear weapons.

The most laughable point from these proud gun owners is that they have a right to purchase what the military purchases in the case of needing to start a militia to overthrow a possibly corrupt government. Even if every American had an AK-47, the country wouldn’t stand a chance against a military that has spent trillions to become the most powerful in the history of humanity.

The logic of guns being a necessity in society is a fallacy in modern America (and the modern first-world as a whole), outside of extremely rural places. Even in areas where guns might be necessary, military-grade automatic weapons make no practical sense unless the goal is to exterminate humans mercilessly.

White supremacy is the biggest violent mass threat to American citizens in the current age but disavowing ideologies can only do so much. A website will get shutdown and these same people will find somewhere else to congregate, either on the web, the dark web or the newest encrypted messaging service.

The NRA claims it has five million members though other data seems to imply there are less. Even five million isn’t much in a country of 327 million, yet its influence cannot be understated: this is one of the most powerful lobbying firms in Washington.

There have been articles in recent months about the NRA’s internal power and financial struggles but the organization keeps its business so quiet that it’s impossible to actually know the inner workings.

Republican politicians still support guns and the NRA as strong as they always have and they will continue as long as the NRA keeps handing cash to them. Meanwhile Democrat politicians scramble to apply political pressure in wake of mass shootings but have no true infrastructure built anywhere to propose then implement sensible gun control.

Until there is a liberal organization to counter the NRA with as much money and political influence, America’s gun problem will continue and only get worse.


Adam Tismăneanu is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. with a bachelors degree in journalism and media studies from Northeastern University in Boston.


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