By Paolo von Schirach
April 15, 2013
WASHINGTON – The mass killing at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown was viewed by many as a real watershed, a historic game changer. President Obama was in tears, the Nation was in shock. So many children killed by yet another armed psychopath. This time, we were told, the country will respond. Policy makers will finally unite and come up with fresh measures that would reduce the chances of any such massacre to happen again.
No new consensus
Well, these predictions were wrong. Terribly wrong. America’s love affair with fire arms endures. There is absolutely no sign that it will wither away. We know the arguments: it is all about the second amendment. It is a constitutional right. Every American has the right to bear arms, etc.
As the memory of Newtown fades, there is no evidence that there is a new consensus leading to meaningful restrictions on new gun sales. The only legislative proposal under discussion is about background checks. A mildly good idea that, even if approved, in the end will make very little difference.
Too many guns
Let’s be realistic. In America, there are approximately 300 million guns already in circulation. That’s simply too many guns. And no legislation will change that. Besides, whatever new restrictions on future legal arms sales, there is obviously a thriving illegal fire arms market. Indeed, many states and cities with heavy restrictions on gun sales have a very high murder rate. This means that criminals know how to get weapons illegally. No new laws will change any of this in the near future.
And so, if we look at the big picture, it is clear that now the “guns battle” that was prompted by the Newtown massacre is mostly a show, it is all about posturing. Some politicians, depending on who their constituents are, may find it expedient to be for or against new restrictions on gun sales, background checks or whatever, even though they know very well that new legislation will change very little.
Politics and not policy
Sadly, even though prompted by a major tragedy, now the guns debate has almost nothing to do with policy, namely serious attempts to make real changes that will seriously affect behavior. It is all about politics. President Obama, along with some key Democrats, is publicly committed to doing “something” about reducing gun violence, and so he has to go places and say all the right things to hand picked audiences. But he is mostly going through the motions. Whatever the legislative outcome, in the end he has to be able to say to all those who favor gun restrictions that he “did all he could”. He fought the good fight.
In the meantime, nobody should be surprised at the high murder rate in a rather violent country in which getting weapons is and will continue to be very easy.