Every time news headlines are filled with yet another deadly school shooting in the US, the world seems to be in shock. As recent as May of this year, leaders from around the world offered their condolences over the deadly rampage at a Texas elementary school in the city of Uvalde that left 19 children under the age of ten, and two teachers dead. As someone from outside the US, it is hard to visualize the potential risk of a shooter (or shooters) entering a school building with the urge to kill. Yet, for many American students this seems to be an event that always looms – and maybe will always loom – over them. Don’t get me wrong, efforts have been made by a large group of Americans to end such events of unnecessary gun violence. Movements like ‘March For Our Lives’ aim at substantial change by trying to influence the public policy, however, real change does not seem to be within close reach. We may ask our self, why it is that we don’t see real substantial change, despite these many efforts? Movements that focus on ending gun-violence seem to fight against a money driven industry and its related political context, seemingly making the process to success almost impossible.
Money, money, money must be funny in a rich man’s world
Owning a gun is often seen as a constitutional right in America, based on the Second Amendment of the United States Constitutions. It is precisely this ‘constitutional right’ that is often used as an argument by those in favour of gun rights. As a matter of fact, the topic of gun control laws brings out stark fundamental differences between Republicans and Democrats, often making the debate on this topic heated.
Nevertheless, there also seems to be an underlying economic and money driven dynamic within the gun rights – gun control dialogue. The Guns & Ammunition Manufacturing industry has grown to a billion dollar industry over the past decades, with the induced economic impact of this industry set at $19.9 billion in 2020. Subsequently, the industry forms an important part of America’s economy. The money driven dynamic is further highlighted by the powerful gun rights advocacy group: the National Rifle Association of America (NRA). This association has been directly influencing gun policies for years, spending at least, may I say a shocking, $3 million a year on their different lobby strategies. Data also shows that 19 Republican senators (current or recent) have received at least 1 million US dollars from the NRA in campaign contributions against gun control legislation over their careers, further emphasizing the influential position of this association. Overall, in our capitalistic world, it is not hard to imagine that profits are chosen above people. We see it happening right before our eyes. Indeed, slogans like ‘people over profit’ have been used in several protests in social movements related to climate, work-conditions and, of course, gun control laws.
One step forward, two steps back
Momentum seems to be of great importance in the fight towards gun control laws. With every new school shooting, heart wrenching stories of survivors and families of victims seem to hit America in its core. It is in the aftermath of those devastating moments that change seems to be closer than ever. President Obama at the time tearfully promised “meaningful action… regardless of the politics” after a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School left 20 kids and 6 adults dead in 2012.
But real change and meaningful action never seems to come. The momentum seems to get lost in the daily struggles of life, and America waits on for another innocent life (or lives) to be lost to spark the conversation again. It is a tragic pattern that has yet to been broken.
Will we ever see an impactful change?
It is a touchy subject, but the hard reality, that the 268 lives lost and further 289 injured by school shootings has not (yet) been able to jolt substantial change, and this maybe duo to the complex political context these movements are fighting against. It is important to note that I am by no means trying to discourage movements like ‘March For Our Lives’. However, I do think that taking into account the context of struggle these movement are located in, explains a big part of the hard (ongoing) battle the participants face towards change. The constraints to success may be hard in this case, but as the – maybe somewhat cliché – quote goes, it does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you don’t give up on what you are fighting for.
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