In the first month and a half of 2023, the United States experienced 72 mass shootings that left 2,237 dead, according to the File of Gun Violence (GVA in English). Some of the most recent occurred at Michigan State University, where three students were killed and five injured, and in an El Paso mallTexas, where a man died and at least three injuries were reported.
Armed violence in the United States is an anomalous case among the richest and most developed countries, says the organization Amnesty International, which also stresses that in all states of the country it is legal to carry concealed firearms in public.
Over the years, Democrats and Republicans have been locked in a lengthy debate over gun regulation. While the Democrats tend to advocate imposing restrictions on the matter, the Republicans are in favor of greater freedom regarding the manufacture, distribution and carrying of weapons.
A right protected by the Constitution:
“Because a well-regulated militia is necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be restricted” defends the second amendment of the Constitution, ratified on December 15, 1791.
This is precisely “an important restriction for arms control,” he explained to the voice of america the expert on the US Constitution and professor at the University of Los Angeles in California (UCLA), Eugene Volokh, who also pointed out that the “main limitation is political”:
“There isn’t a lot of political sentiment to support at least the harshest forms of gun control. There’s a relatively modest sense of control here and there, but a full ban on guns would violate the second amendment.”
George W. Bush (2001-2009)
During his first year in the White House, in 2001, Republican President George W. Bush created the “Safe Neighborhoods Project,” a program that his administration announced was intended to “coordinate federal, state, and local law enforcement to put an end to crimes committed with firearms. His government defined it as “a success.”
Later, in 2005, President Bush signed federal law granting immunity from liability actions against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for misuse of their products. A decision that was not well received by a large part of the Democrats and, above all, by the relatives of the victims of armed violence.
However, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a former congresswoman and senior advisor at the Giffords Center, an institution that fights for gun control, considers that exemption is not “complete or absolute.”
“Just last year we saw that nine families who were victims of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 won a lawsuit against the gun manufacturers (…) So it is not absolute and it opened the door for other victims of the gun violence can use these types of remedies to have their day in court. It is the only industry in the country that has that protection, ”he commented to the VOA.
In 2007, what has been described as one of the worst attacks perpetrated in an American university took place: The shooting at Virginia Tech, in which 32 people died.
In response to the shooting, former President Bush introduced a bill that sought to improve the system for checking criminal records prior to purchasing weapons.
In addition, during the same term, a veto implemented in 1994 by then-President Bill Clinton that prohibited the manufacture and sale of certain assault weapons expired. Volohk noted that after the ban was put into effect, Clinton lost his majority in Congress:
“Since then the belief in Congress was that gun laws probably weren’t a particularly popular idea politically. But in general, those who oppose gun laws strongly reject them, and those who support them defend them weakly. So, as a result, it’s not a political asset.”
On the other hand, Mucarsel-Powell noted that, during the ban, the homicide rate due to high-capacity rifles dropped to 70%. “What we know is that these weapons have been used after 2004, after that law expired. They have been the preferred weapons of criminals in this country to carry out mass shooting attacks, says the former congresswoman.
Despite numerous efforts by activists and political groups, the law has remained in the doldrums since 2004.
“In recent administrations there has not been a spirit of consensus and negotiation,” he stressed in statements to the VOA the expert in international relations Eduardo Pacheco.
Barack Obama (2009-2017)
In 2009 Barack Obama came to the White House. During his first term, analysts agree that gun control was not one of his administration’s priorities. He even passed a controversial federal law that allowed guns to be brought into national parks and shelters.
after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, In which 6 adults and 20 children died, former President Obama signed 23 executive actions related to gun control, even though the White House said the “biggest changes” were up to Congress.
“There was a lot of executive order but executive orders unfortunately remain very limited,” observed Guillermo Pacheco, director of International Affairs at the Security College, who noted that the decrees “expire very quickly.” “Even though I have scored 25, 30 or 50, the fight always falls short due to the range they have.”
The House of Representatives, then in the hands of the republicansdid not approve requests made by Democrats, including
In 2016, a shooting took place at an LQTBQ+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 49 people died and dozens were injured. After the event, Obama returned to pressure Congress, but no measure was passed.
On the other hand, the former Democratic president repeatedly criticized the gun lobby, especially the National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the main sponsors of the Republican Party.
Donald J. Trump (2017-2021):
In 2017 the Republican Donald Trump reached the White House. His administration reversed a rule signed by Obama so that people with mental health problems would have greater scrutiny of their backgrounds when buying a gun.
During this Republican administration, there was a lot of social pressure, especially after the shooting that occurred at a high school in ParklandFlorida, where 17 people lost their lives.
Despite defending the right to bear arms and having a close relationship with the National Rifle Association, Trump banned accelerators, a mechanism used by a man to shoot concertgoers in Las Vegas in 2017, where 58 died. people. A measure that is described as “minimum” by the expert Mucarsel-Powell:
“We have seen that now people can buy parts online and on social networks to create their own weapons at home. It is extremely dangerous because they are not registered weapons and many times they are not detectable”
Joe Biden (2021)
And in June 2022, with the current Joe Biden administration, the Senate passed a historic law gun control. The bill, which had bipartisan support, includes improved background checks and investments in mental health resources and school safety.
And recently, in his State of the Union address On February 7, President Biden called on Congress to once again ban assault weapons.
“We did it before. I led the fight to ban them in 1994. In the 10 years that the ban was in law, mass shootings decreased. After the Republicans let it expire, mass shootings tripled. Let’s finish the job and ban assault weapons again,” he stressed.
“In his first two years he had a majority in the Senate and in the House of Representatives where he could have passed very easily and he proposes it now when he does not have a majority in the House of Representatives where things become very difficult,” considered Pacheco, who He also pointed out that in the last administrations there has not been a “spirit of consensus and negotiation,” precisely on the issue of assault weapons.
A similar position is held by Volokh, who notes that an assault weapons ban currently appears “unlikely” to be enacted.
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Source: VOA Español