U.S. gun culture and the prospects for gun control

World Today


On Tuesday, May 24th, ​police say an 18-year-old gunman shot his grandmother before ​he ​continued his rampage at an elementary school ​in Uvalde, Texas, ​opening fire and killing 19 children and two adults. The attack came 10 days after a racially motivated mass shooting took place at a ​Buffalo, New York, supermarket, where 10 Black people were killed.

The Texas shooting marks the 213th mass shooting ​in the U.S. so far this year, according to tracking by the non-profit Gun Violence Archive, which counts mass shootings as having four or more victims. Among the public and many elected officials, renewed rage ​has erupted over U.S. gun violence, ​along with renewed calls for stricter gun regulations. ​Action however, ​has proven impossible in the past in the face of America’s most powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA), ​which considers any gun control measures an infringement on Americans’ constitutional right “to keep and bear arms.”

The Uvalde shooting comes eight months after new laws took effect expand​ing gun rights ​in Texas, including ​one allowing most adults in the state to legally carry handguns in public without a license. Another law made Texas a ​so-called “Second Amendment Sanctuary State,” ​prohibited from enforcing any new federal gun control regulations. 

“Politicians from the federal level to the local level have threatened to take guns from law-abiding citizens — but we will not let that happen in Texas,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott said during the bill signing ceremony in June 2021. 

Hours after Tuesday’s school shooting, state Republicans called for more efforts to toughen school security and arm more teachers. “We can’t stop bad people from doing bad things,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Fox News. “We can potentially arm and prepare and train teachers and other administrators to respond quickly.” The ​sheriff of Bosque County ​in Texas also called ​for a more aggressive response, calling on all of the county’s school districts to implement the School Marshal Program that authorizes ​trained employees to serve as school marshals and carry firearms. 

This is not the first ​Texas school shooting prompting Republican politicians ​to call for more access to firearms. After the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas that killed 10 students, Governor Abbott called for more expansion of a program that allows schools to arm staff, and lawmakers budget​ed $100 million for ​the “hardening” of public schools. 

While the vast majority of Republican lawmakers have been calling for the expansion of gun rights, ​a University of Texas/Texas Tribute poll ​taken last year finds a solid majority of Texas voters ​said they did not support unlicensed handgun carry in public places, ​59% of all respondents. ​Among just Republicans, however, 56% of respondents support​ed unlicensed carry. ​And 34% of Texas voters ​surveyed said more people carrying guns would make the U.S. safer, while 39% ​said that would leave the country less safe.  

What might help explain the consistent support for gun rights ​in America? 

According to ​the OpenSecrets research group ​which tracks money in U.S. politics, gun rights group​s spent a record $15​.8 million on lobbying in 2021, ​much of it flowing directly to GOP lawmakers. ​OpenSecrets identifies Texas senator Ted Cruz ​as getting the most; $442,000 ​in total lifetime contributions. Another Texas senator, John Cornyn, ranks third on the list, ​amassing around $340,000 ​from gun rights groups. Other Texas lawmakers are also identified as receiv​ing significant amounts from gun rights groups ​over their careers. 

Other research from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence shows the NRA spent $1.6 million in the first half of 2019 ​alone lobbying ​members ​of Congress to vote against a proposal to expand background checks for gun sales. 

In the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, many elected officials and activists have called for more gun control laws. However, it is unclear whether there will be any drastic changes able to ​overcome the powerful influence of the gun lobby on lawmakers.  

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