Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

More massacres to come as gun reforms derailed

Tragedy: a Sandy Hook pupil
Tragedy: a Sandy Hook pupil

Fourth months on from the most horrific mass-killing in modern US history and efforts to stiffen America's gun laws have been dramatically run down.

Is the stall in the reform drive proof of the gun lobby's stranglehold on Congress? Or do Americans just love their guns too much to be overly moved by a slaughter of innocents?

The December massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut was seen as a game-changer.

But, as with every other mass killing in recent American history, political and social agendas quickly trumped its emotional fallout.

Since the Sandy Hook massacre, more than 3,000 Americans have died in gun violence. But it's the National Rifle Association – not gun-law reformists – who now hold the clear upper hand. So complete has been the NRA's victory that when two senators (not the full Senate, mind you) announced on April 10 that they'd reached an agreement on expanding federal background checks for gun buyers, it was hailed as a major breakthrough.

But the NRA has already fried much bigger fish since Sandy Hook. Its tenacious political lobbying and aggressive media campaigning has already derailed efforts to reinstate the 1994 ban on the sale of military-style assault rifles.

Over the objections of other Democrats, Senate majority leader Harry Reid said it was "unrealistic" even to schedule a Senate vote on resurrecting the ban, which lapsed in 2004. Yet, last week, a Morning Joe/Marist Poll found that Americans supporting an assault weapons ban outnumber those opposing one by a 59%-37% margin.

The NRA and the weapons industry are laughing into their sleeves at the impotence of politicians to enact meaningful change.

The amazing thing is that, in spite of the fact that it has four million dues-paying members, these days the NRA's political bark is far worse than its bite.

In the 2012 election cycle, the NRA splashed out $18m (£11.7m) in support of gun-friendly candidates.

More than 95% of those candidates – including Mitt Romney, who got $12m (£7.8m) in NRA support – lost their races. The real reason there has been little movement on gun law isn't the NRA, but rather America's multi-billion dollar weapons industry.

Last year, the gun industry posted $11bn (£7.15bn) in sales and $993m (£646m) in profits. A sizeable chunk of those sales – $4.4bn (£2.86bn) – are sold outside the US.

The weapons industry isn't as overt as the NRA in opposing tighter gun laws, primarily because it pumps money into the NRA, so that it will do the dirty work.

And, to date, having ridden out the wave of public anger directed at it following the Sandy Hook massacre, the NRA has, once again, thwarted meaningful gun law reform.

And, in doing so, it has all but assured that the Sandy Hook massacre won't be the last such massacre in modern-day American history.

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz