The Parkland Shooting & America's Gun Culture

By Campaign Agent Matthew Waterfield

On Valentine’s Day, Nikolas Cruz, a 19 year old man from Florida, walked into his former high school and shot 17 people dead. He was soon arrested by the police and has now been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, which he has reportedly accepted blame for.

Cruz’s motivations aren’t totally clear as of yet, but there are indications. His decision to carry out the massacre on 14 February suggests he had a problem with relationships (indeed it’s been reported that he threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend). He’s also a white supremacist, as well as a supporter of Donald Trump, with this link to the alt-right possibly influencing his actions.

The one thing that you can be certain about is that the shooting has sparked yet another gun control debate in the United States. As was the case following Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas etc., many have called for gun restrictions to be tightened.

For example, the gun used in the attack, an AR-15, was previously outlawed for a period of time, until the legislation banning it lapsed in 2004. Many argue that these semi-automatic weapons should be subject to much stricter regulations, like they are in the UK.

However, it’s unlikely that American gun legislation will be changing any time soon, with Donald Trump in the White House and a Republican dominated Congress. The National Rifle Association, the most powerful gun rights group in the US, is opposed to practically any restriction on gun ownership, the one exception being a ban on bump stocks (which were used in the Las Vegas massacre).

This matters because the Republicans can’t afford to irritate the NRA and its 5 million members, for fear of electoral repercussions and the loss of NRA donations.

The other big obstacle to gun law reform is the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution. Part of the Bill of Rights, it protects people’s right to “bear arms” and, as part of the Constitution, trying to change this would require two thirds majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate or the support of two thirds of state legislatures.

Therefore, the only way for the current situation to change much is for pro-NRA politicians to lose their seats e.g. at the upcoming midterm elections. Many of the Republicans who support the NRA will face re-election on 6 November this year and if their anti-gun opponents, likely to be Democrats, can defeat them, it might be possible for gun laws to be somewhat reformed, at least at a state level.

On the whole though, it seems for now that the focus will continue to be on mental health and how to stop people from descending to a point where they are able to go through with these atrocities.

Sources and Further Reading:

Image: AK Rockefeller @ Flickr

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