Editorial, February 27, 2018: What It Will Take for Real Gun Control?

Guns owned by the Florida mass murderer (AP)

No other nation on earth even comes close to the mass murders that the United States endures. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a primary cause. Its real name should be the National Gun Sellers Association, because it receives millions of dollars from gun manufacturers to ensure that the maximum number of guns are sold.

The NRA uses this money to elect politicians who will oppose even the slightest restrictions on gun sales.   It massively funds Republican election campaigns and conducts major advertising campaigns against any Republican who voices even a bit of reason regarding gun control. Republicans have been terrified for years of crossing the NRA.

The NRA maintains control by telling gun owners that any restrictions regarding guns will inevitably lead to the government confiscating all guns. Of course, that has not happened even though the government has forbidden ownership of machine guns for more than 75 years.

The NRA also perpetuates the myth that gun owners will prevent dictatorship in the United States, as if the U.S. military, the most powerful in all history, would not summarily crush any armed resistance.

The NRA’s efforts translate into votes: Too many Americans are willing to accept mass murders as the price to preserve minimal gun control.

As a result, federal law permits sales of weapons at gun shows without any background checks. Assault rifles are allowed even though they are weapons of war, not civilian firearms: No one goes deer hunting with an AR-15 assault rifle. Republicans overturned an earlier ban on assault rifles and prevented passage of bills that would prohibit gun ownership by those on terrorist watch lists or with mental illness.

Contrast this with Australia. There in 1996 a gunman killed 36 people. The Conservative government responded with legislation that banned assault rifles, tightened gun licensing, created national registration standards and instituted a gun buyback program. The result: Large-scale gun massacres completely disappeared and the rate of death by gunshot fell by 50%.

The vast majority of Americans, when polled, believe that assault rifles should be banned and background checks for gun ownership strengthened. Even a solid majority of NRA members believe this. Smart gun control, though, does not generate voters willing to select candidates based on that issue alone. The only single-issue voters on gun control are those who oppose regulation.

The reality is that unless the Democrats take control of the Senate, the House and the Presidency, no serious gun-reform efforts will happen at the federal level. The Democrats might possibly achieve that in the 2020 elections. Until then, mass killings will continue in the U.S. on a regular basis.

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