The issue of gun control has once again reared its ugly head in American public discourse with the recent spate of crimes involving gun violence, such as the Orlando nightclub massacre last month killing at least 50, the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shootings in which 27 died, and the movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado indelibly etched in the memory of both Americans and the world. Even as I write, the reverberations of the most recent shootings in Dallas where 5 policemen were killed by a black man affiliated with black power groups, make itself felt strongly. The catchword of 2016 has been division; Americans have been torn asunder by several buffeting forces - first by Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, then by escalating racial tensions, and the never-ending tussle between gun control advocates and gun rights groups.
Time and again, politicians have tried to introduce legislations tightening the sale of firearms to private individuals after every tragic mass shooting; time and again, President Barack Obama stands in front of the camera addressing the entire nation about the “senseless tragedy”. One might be forgiven for thinking that this whole spectacle is starting to become routine for the US. A mass shooting happens, Congress tries to enact stricter gun control bills, they get struck down, and the cycle repeats itself.
Right after the Orlando nightclub shooting, Democratic senator Chris Murphy organized a 15-hour filibuster marathon demanding that bills aimed at preventing dangerous people from acquiring firearms be brought to the floor. His efforts were, however, in vain as all four gun-related bills were struck down. A week later, some Democrat leaders staged a dramatic sit-in for 25 hours on the floor of the House of Representatives chamber, streaming the process live from their phones and galvanizing massive public support.
These have been a tense past few days for the US, with two unrelated police brutality incidents, resulting in the deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, both of whom are black. Mass protests under the banner of the #BlackLivesMatter movement erupted across many major cities, and things came to a violent head at a Dallas protest, where military veteran Micah Johnson fired shots with clinical precision from a sniper gun, killing 5 police officers and injuring 12 in the process. This spate of deaths at the hands of police brutality has once again sparked the age-old debate between gun rights and gun control advocates, and this time the hugely influential National Rifle Association (NRA) has been sucked into the vortex as well. Disagreements have arisen within the NRA camp itself, as some members feel that the NRA has not voiced enough support for black Americans exercising their right to the Second Amendment.
This is in stark contrast to the vocal stance that NRA typically takes, unequivocally supporting the rights of Americans to bear firearms and staunchly refusing any legislations otherwise. The tentacles of the NRA reach deep into the Senate and the House of Representatives, bankrolling mostly Republican candidates and grading senators based on their stance on gun rights. This graphic from Vox shows how divided the Senate truly is and sheds some light on why gun control bills perpetually never ever pass.
To most of the rest of the world looking on, it is exceedingly difficult to understand why America just cannot put the problem of gun violence to rest once and for all by enforcing seemingly common-sense gun control measures. The world has undoubtedly entered a new reality where terror attacks are now happening with increasing frequency. Is the Second Amendment, adopted in 1791, still relevant in its original and unbridled form? Some form of unity must be achieved between the Democrat and Republican leaders of the country to enact some form of gun control before the American public become desensitized to these acts of violence. This almost uniquely American problem has been festering for a long time, and its resulting sores and wounds are threatening to break down the increasingly fragile social fabric of the nation if something is not done soon - and fast. But as long as the NRA has an iron grip on American politics, the light at the end of the tunnel - or rather, barrel - will continue be out of reach.