WIll America Ever Properly Deal With Their Gun Problem?
Another week, another slew of senseless killings, but guns are still a-ok in the US.
You might’ve noticed that last weekend was the fourth of July weekend, otherwise known as Independence Day, otherwise known as a terrible movie starring Will Smith and notorious felon Randy Quaid. But, while the usual associations with the holiday weekend are of barbeques, fireworks, beer and the obese, Cheez Wiz-filled stomach of stereotypical America, this year’s celebrations have, yet again, fallen into tragedy. According to Vice, this weekend saw 53 injuries and nine deaths from guns in Chicago alone, including a seven year-old boy watching the fireworks in front of his house. It follows on from the Memorial Day weekend, where 12 people were killed and 43 wounded. It seems like patriotic holidays beget gun crime in the US, funnily enough.
But this, most likely, is not surprising news. Week after week, we are now constantly being fed the latest updates on the amount of gun murders occurring in the US, with the ever-apparent massacres popping up to put big peaks in the bar graph every now and then. It’s become such a central part of American media, in fact, that president Barack Obama has had to directly call out the huge issue of gun crime as “not the new normal”, and that American citizens should not passively accept that the American dream now includes watching some kid blow away 20 people on the Sunday night news.
It only takes one look at Obama’s face in the above video to know for sure that he is as sick to death as every non-American of saying, “look, this whole gun thing, it’s not working anymore.” The fact is, Obama has been arguing for gun control long before he was president. During his time as a senator in Illinois, he brought gun control legislation to the state on a number of occasions. But, of course, as soon as you become president, you’re under pressure from a completely new level of inconceivable douchebaggery.
Not long after the tragic AME Church shooting in Charleston – the most recent “massacre”, a little over two weeks back from this past weekend – Obama appeared on comedian Marc Maron’s podcast, WTF, which quickly went viral. On it, he discussed racism, obstacles in Washington and his favourite comedians, but the most candid moment in the interview came when Maron broached the issue of gun safety. Instead of reciting another White House press release – an act that Obama has seemingly distanced himself more and more in his last term – he was brutally honest about the machinations that prevent serious discussion on gun control happening in the US. According to Obama, gun manufacturers would "make out like bandits, partly because of this fear that's churned up that the federal government and the black helicopters are all coming to get your guns." He also argued that the situation of his country was entirely unique."The grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong. I don't foresee any legislative action being taken in this Congress."
Clearly, the president has come to understand that the issue of guns in the US is not simply a political argument to be nutted out by representatives, but is instead a massively surreptitious element of American culture, driven by some of the most powerful lobbyists to exist in the world, let alone the “take what you give” market-driven framework of US Congress. And therein lies the predicament that Obama faces, as well as everyone else who wants to stop seeing children gunned down on the streets: gun culture in America is closely associated with a patriotic and nostalgic sense of identity, but it’s not a natural phenomenon. There’s a reason why other countries that fought for independence in the same way as the US aren’t constantly praying at the altar of Heckler & Koch to this day. The entire idea of guns being so integral to the American way of mind is driven by those who have, and will continue to make, huge amounts of money from the continuing bloodshed.
The National Rifle Association is, by far, the most powerful of the gun lobbyists, and they maintain such a degree of public support chiefly from their strict adherence to the good ol’ Second Amendment. Their website (above) – which I highly recommend, if you need to get a full dose of ‘MERICA but only have about five minutes – mentions the right to bear arms everywhere, as well as calls to arms and constant reminders that evil is just outside your front door, constantly. They are a well-oiled machine of dogmatic, partisan efficiency. Seriously, it’s pretty hard to make too much objective sense out of the statement that your organisation is “dedicated to building relationships with patriots who are seeking to secure the future of freedom.” And, like all great monopolistic oligarchies, the gun lobby is very, very good at scaring the shit out of the public in order to further their aims. If you think the whole “First they take our guns, then they take our freedom” diatribe is nothing more than a conspiracy theory, keep in mind that Obama has had to publicly defend his proposed legislation as not an attempt for the government to lock everyone up in camps, and that whack jobs like Alex Jones are constantly ranting on mainstream media about how any attempt to take their guns “will cause 1776 all over again.” This is the Hydra that Obama has to face in order to get anywhere with gun law, and even he has stated that it’s not likely to happen in this current Congress.
To truly understand how insurmountable Obama’s plans to change gun laws are, you really have to understand how much Congress is owned by the lobbyists. All in all, corporations spend (at least) US $2.6 billion on lobbying per year. That’s $600 million more than American tax payers spend on both houses of Congress per year, which pretty much sums up the whole issue in two neat numbers. Corporations – including the big gun manufacturers as well as military contractors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin – are intrinsically and constantly linked with American politics, with huge numbers of lobbyists representing these corporations 24-7. And again, it’s all protected by the constitution – lobbying falls under the First Amendment as free speech. According to an Atlantic article published earlier this year, the entire paradigm of lobbying is a new frontier because corporations “now have the resources to play offense and defence simultaneously on almost any top-priority issue”. This more or less means that any corporation representing something through a lobby now has power to both constantly push their doctrine while simultaneously spinning any collateral damage that might occur – the very same process the NRA goes through every time there’s another mass shooting.
The current scope of the gun control debate in the US has reached a level of such inherent ridiculousness that, without the hindsight of the slippery slope of constant tragic massacres over the last decade, it would look like something out of a 1984-esque dystopia. Much like the recent marriage laws hitting the Supreme Court to get around the notoriously fragmented state policy procedure, Obama and anti-gun campaigners have had to find ever more creative ways of circumventing a Congress he doesn’t control. The Centre for Disease Control & Prevention has been attempting to research firearms since 1996 when it was founded, but has been turned down by political vote a cool 38 times, the most recent dismissal by a largely Republican majority coming at probably the worst time possible. The reason? “Guns aren’t a disease”, according to Speaker of the House John Boehner.
There’s a very clear reason why Barack Obama decided to get real on the Maron podcast. Obviously, he’s sick and tired of having to convince a large proponent of Washington that stopping people being gunned down on the streets is probably a worthwhile idea. But he’s also trying a different tact: he’s trying to appeal to the average American’s common sense, something that we all hope still exists in the face of such tragedy. He understands, as I think we all have to, that nothing will change in the US without a massive overhaul of the government system, and that this has to be supported by the American people via their own consciences. Hopefully, something will get going before too many more kids are shot in front of their own homes.