20 Years On From Columbine… and the U.S. Government Remains at the Mercy of the NRA

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1999.  Two teenagers walked into their school like they did every day, and shot dead 12 of their classmates and a teacher before turning their guns on themselves. 

Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are now just two names in a long line of killers who have terrorised the public.  At the time, the Columbine High School massacre was the deadliest school shooting in American history and yet, 20 years on, it seems as though the U.S. is yet to commit to ensuring that their citizens are protected.

The recent shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio have resulted in yet more fervent calls for gun control.  However, these calls are no different to the ones that came after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, after the Pulse nightclub shooting and after the Las Vegas attack, the latter of which remains the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.  After each and every one of these attacks, calls have repeatedly been made of the government to ban the sale of assault rifles, ammunition and other weapons and attachments that are the repeated cause of death and terror in the United States.

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By large these calls remain unheeded.  This is in part down to the entrenched belief that many Americans have regarding the right to bear arms, set out in the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The purchase of guns and the protection of the 2nd amendment has been glorified by politicians in recent history.  In 2015, U.S. presidential candidate Ted Cruz posted a video of him wrapping a raw bacon rasher around the barrel of his gunHe went to a shooting range to fire the weapon, with the heat of the gun cooking the bacon.  Cruz, after tasting it exclaimed Mmmmm, Machine Gun bacon’.  For an elected official to so nonchalantly show off his own personal weapon personifies how the glorification of guns has become a failure of government.  How can they expect to protect people if those elected to do so flaunt their own means to kill?

However, what has really allowed the severity of gun crime to rise, as well as resistance towards gun control, is the hold that the NRA (National Rifle Association) has on the U.S. government.  The Republican Party, who are very much seen as stooges of the NRA, have held power in both houses of Congress for the majority of the last decade.  This has meant that when a mass shooting occurs, the outcry for reform falls on deaf ears, as the congress fears alienating themselves from their support base and potential campaign donors. The NRA and gun shareholders also profit massively (as seen after the El Paso and Dayton shootings), as the cries for gun control are met with fear and panic from those who feel that their liberty will be taken away if they do not possess a weapon that has only one real purpose: to kill.

In the last few years, America’s murder rate stands out as the highest in the ‘developed world’ with 73% of all homicides in 2017 being gun-related.  With 110 mass shootings since 1982, it seems not only is the frequency of shootings increasing but so is their fatality rate.  9 of the 10 largest mass shootings in American history have happened since Columbine, the largest being the horrific slaughter in Las Vegas by 64-year-old Stephan Paddock, that saw 58 people killed and over 800 injured.  The NRA released a statement following the shooting which ended with a rallying cry for gun carriers:

‘We urge Congress to pass National Right-to-Carry reciprocity, which will allow law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their families from acts of violence’.

But how does the NRA propose to prevent these weapons from getting into the hands of those who wish to cause the violence?  They have constantly opposed gun regulations, which have only made it easier for killers like Paddock, Klebold and Harris to murder innocent people.

It was after the Las Vegas shooting, however, that maybe, just maybe, there was hope.  President Trump announced legislation to restrict the sale of bump stocks to rifles, making it potentially harder for gunmen to fire multiple rounds from semi-automatic rifles.  Indeed, in 2018 the Justice Department branded these weapons as machine guns, which would in effect ban them under a 1986 ruling that outlaws possession of fully automatic weapons.  Yet after the Acts of Terror in El Paso and Dayton, it is clear that what has gone before is not enough.  Nothing has prevented two young men from committing unspeakable acts of violence.  Their ideology and mental state may be a contributing factor to their crime, but if they had not been able to get hold of a weapon in the first place, 29 people would currently be getting on with their lives.

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So now we have had two more tragedies, needless and yet predictable.  America once again fails to protect its citizens.  There are several facets of blame certainly, but none deserve it more than the NRA.  They have for years demanded that the sale of weapons not only be allowed to continue, but also encouraged as they have rejected any calls to restrict the sale of automatic weapons, which are the major cause of the increasing number of deaths in mass shootings. Moreover, they further discourage bipartisanship within government, which has meant that next to no progress has been made in attempts to curb gun violence in America. 20 years ago, a school was brought to its knees due to a lack of gun control.  Nothing has changed.  How many have to die for it to change?

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International Editor 2019/20. BA Film and History. Liverpool Fan-YNWA

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