And these are just headlines from 2023.
Gun violence continues to run rampant across the United States as a result of mass shootings and limited gun control. The complex dynamic between America’s chronic obsession with gun culture, the controversy surrounding the Second Amendment and the interplay of political pressures faced by both political parties has left its bloody mark in our country’s history books. Congress’s inaction due to greed for political power and promises of wealth and endorsements from the National Rifle Association has allowed our nation’s biggest virus to continue. One, it seems, that only affects the United States.
On March 15, 2019, 51 people lost their lives in a mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand after a gunman went on a shooting spree across two mosques. It was described as one of the country’s “darkest days” by then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who began a campaign against semi-automatic weapons and mass gun violence alongside her cabinet 72 hours later. Nearly a month later, New Zealand’s Parliament passed a national ban on assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic weapons in a sweeping vote of 119-1. In the years since the shooting, New Zealand has not had an incident involving gun violence or mass shootings.
That image starkly contrasts the persisting violence within the United States.
The loss inflicted by guns is not lost to the American public. We have seen consistent activism and demonstrations calling for gun reform and an end to gun violence for years. However, the problem lies in the power of the NRA and the long-standing ties between the association and members of Congress. A majority of U.S. congressmen are indebted to gun lobby money ensuring their seats in Congress. The history behind the NRA’s bonds with Congress dates back decades, ensuring their dominance in the gun lobby and sector as well as a seat at the table when it comes to gun laws and protecting the right to bear arms.
We have the capacity to pass legislation similar to that of New Zealand’s. Congress has done it once before. On September 13, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban passed by Congress a few weeks prior into law. The 10-year ban effectively prohibited civilian use of semi-automatic weapons classified as assault weapons in the law. So what changed?
In 1994, the law was passed with bipartisan support and little opposition given Congress had entered a period of great cooperation between the Democratic and Republican parties. Congress in the ’90s was not as politically divisive as it is today, making compromises between the two leading parties easier. Gun control was also not as politically controversial as it has become today. The ban came as a part of a larger campaign to tackle the cocaine epidemic that took America by storm in the 1980s rather than in response to mass shootings seen today. By the expiration of the law 10 years later, the divide between the Democrats and Republicans had deepened, and the NRA’s association with the Republican party pushed them further away.
The cultural shift in the dynamic between the two has become a prime issue in American politics. At the time that mass shootings became a major political issue as a result of numerous school shootings, each party was too entrenched in their own political greed to see the larger picture. In a world driven by capital wealth and political corruption, pressing issues affecting the American people have been put on the back burner.
These last few years have seen a surge of support for the end of gun violence, particularly stimulated by the younger generation of school-aged children and teens who have grown up in the era of school shootings. As a Gen Z person, I don’t remember a time when active shooter drills were not a thing practiced in school. They were as normalized as fire drills at our high school, a horrifying thought in and of itself. The movement for gun control taken up by activists such as March for Our Lives and Students Demand Action have been successfully lobbying Congress to pass more legislation to protect American children in schools. While the situation may seem discouraging, the latest actions taken by our generation are not. We are continuing to persist despite the circumstances, and with a new wave of younger politicians making their way into Congress, not all hope is lost.
For more information on what you can do to support the gun control movement, see access to resources at the links below:
March For Our Lives: https://marchforourlives.com/
Students Demand Action: https://studentsdemandaction.org/
Moms Demand Action: https://momsdemandaction.org/