Four bills. Four no’s to arms control, just a week after the Orlando massacre. The U.S. Congress is airtight against any minimal reform aimed at limiting access to firearms.
On Monday, some rejected proposals focused on extending preventive controls on potential buyers looking to acquire arms from other individuals, restricting sales to those who will actually use the weapons. Another would have restricted the sale of weapons of war, assault rifles like the AR-15, a semi-automatic supplied to the army and regularly shouldered by the authors of massacres that have become a true American plague.
Not even the most recent mass shooting — the worst in the battered history of the country — could convince the Republican members of Congress to change their votes. The GOP vetoed each of the proposals in a tight block, arguing predictably in favor of the inviolability of the Second Amendment, an addendum to the constitution written in 1791 in order to promote the rapid creation of civilian militias to defend the young revolution. Since then the sacred right to carry firearms has become the unquestionable banner of the conservative right and the party which expresses these preferences.
Despite the surveys indicating that in light of the almost daily massacres (331 accidents with four or more dead or injured by firearms in 2015, including 24 in June) Americans now favor stricter rules by 13 percentage points, the powerful lobby of the National Rifle Association maintains constant pressure on politicians. Since 1996, following the so-called Dickey amendment, it was even forbidden to conduct epidemiological research on the phenomenon because it was denounced by the NRA as a “ploy to violate the rights of citizens.”
The situation has exasperated Obama throughout his administration. The president has repeatedly campaigned in favor of stricter rules, especially after the 2012 massacre in Newtown, which cost the lives of a large group of elementary school children in Connecticut. Even shortly before the Orlando shootout, Obama denounced a paradoxical situation. “Do you know that Congress will not allow the Center of Disease Control to study gun violence?” he said. “They are not allowed to study it because the notion is that by studying it, the same way we do with traffic accidents, somehow that is going to lead to everyone’s guns being confiscated.”
In order to get to this week’s vote, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut last week held the floor for 15 hours in protest. It is not the first time that bills have failed after a massacre. The same thing happened in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre when 20 children were murdered, the shootings at Columbine, Aurora and finally San Bernardino. The result is that access even to the most fearsome fire weapons remains open to every American able to get around the few rules that exist: He or she must simply turn on the computer and type armslist.com, a virtual supermarket where you can buy all kinds of weapons. The resulting saturation of firearms (in the order of hundreds of millions of units) is such that purchase may not even be necessary.
That’s what Steven Michael Sandford thought. The 20-year-old British citizen who on Saturday tried to seize a pistol from the holster of a police officer in Las Vegas during a speech by Donald Trump. Blocked by the police, he said that he had plans to assassinate the candidate. Sandford will be tried on July 5. The “almost attack” was not the worst news for Trump in a very bad week. While the polls indicate that the gap that separates him from Hillary Clinton has grown, the funding gap turned out even wider. While Clinton has collected to date $42 million dollars, the “billionaire” has only $1.3 million in his campaign chest.
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