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After dust settles on assassination attempt, nothing will change in U.S.

0 Comments 19 July 2017

No one in the United States is really willing to tackle the single biggest killer of Americans—their own guns.

By SHEILA COPPS

First published on Monday, June 19, 2017 in The Hill Times.

 

OTTAWA—A baseball shootout in the United States will rally all Americans behind their government.

The one thing that won’t happen is any amendment to laws that seem destined to promote a national gun epidemic.

By all accounts, the alleged shooter had political opinions. He despised both U.S. President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. He supported left-wing Democrat Bernie Sanders, who was quick to dissociate himself from the shooter by decrying violence in any form.

After the dust has settled on this assassination attempt, nothing will change.

No one in the United States is really willing to tackle the single biggest killer of Americans—their own guns.

It is politically correct to focus on foreign enemies, from ISIL to Iran, to the Syrian government. But the single most significant reason for death in America is unfettered access to firepower by any person under any circumstance.

Rarely has this open access hit so close to political home. The attack upon Democrat Gabrielle Giffords generated a similar visceral response back in January, 2011, when the congresswoman was shot at a public town hall meeting in her constituency.

Six other people at the meeting were killed but Giffords survived, with extensive brain damage. She resigned her seat a year later, with the intention of focussing on her own recovery.

In January 2013, Giffords and her spouse, retired astronaut Mark Kelly cofounded Americans for Responsible Solutions. The organization is working with elected officials and the general public to promote gun control legislation. Their movement supports “keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people like criminals, terrorists, and the mentally ill.”

Giffords’ family effort follows in the wake of work by other victims of similar politically-motivated assassination attempts. The fallout of a gun attack on president Ronald Reagan back in 1981 left his press secretary James Brady, paralyzed and with permanent brain damage.

Brady’s wife Sara, then devoted her family’s efforts to lobbying for gun legislation. Ultimately, the Brady Bill, placing a five-day wait time on pistol purchase, was proposed in 1987 and passed into law by president Bill Clinton in 1993.

Even this small step was concurrently undermined by contradictory legislation called the Firearm Owners Protection Act. That counter law was designed to ensure that any details on gun ownership would not provided to any police authorities, supposedly to protect firearm owners.

The gun lobby also succeeded in dumbing down the Brady Bill, so that the five-day delay could be replaced by an instantaneous computer check in many circumstances.

The Brady and Giffords attacks resulted in some pushback to the powerful American gun lobby. Political shootings garner a lot more public attention than the fact that 16 children are hospitalized with gunshot wounds every day in that country.

The post-shooting analysis will undoubtedly focus on the abysmal lack of protection afforded to those Congressional members attending the early morning baseball practice. The bigger picture of the American gun epidemic will most likely be ignored.

The gun lobby is too deeply intertwined with political financing. As long as congressional candidates receive millions of dollars of contributions in return for lenient lawmaking, the situation will not change.

When any American election permits campaign spending in the millions, it is impossible to square that serious financial hurdle with the basic notion of free elections.

If a single candidate is required to raise millions in campaign funding, that person obviously becomes dependent on political action committees that pay their support forward.

And the largest of those political influencers is the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association. The NRA spokesperson on the congressional shooting went on television immediately to defend the fact that ’Guns saved lives” and “good guys” saved the day because the security detail of Representative Steve Scalise was armed and able to take out the attacker.

Gun control supporters countered with the fact that the availability of guns in America have created a situation where the country suffers from twenty-five times the murder rate of any other country in the world.

On a daily basis 93 Americans are killed by guns.

Some 32,000 people a year die from gunshot wounds. The brazen attack upon a congress person will temporarily focus the debate. But it won’t change a thing.

The American body politic is deeply beholden to the gun lobby for financial support and electoral success.

Schoolyard, childcare or nightclub attacks grab headlines for a few days. So will the congressional shooting.

But shortly, it will be back to business as usual. Gun business that is.

 

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.

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