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On November 5, 2017, a gunman opened fire at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people. Although mass shootings in Texas and Las Vegas reignite the debate on gun ownership, a long road lies ahead before these tragedies force Americans to change their relationship with guns.

President Trump played off yesterday’s shooting as an issue of mental health, claiming “this isn’t a gun situation.” Meanwhile, gun fetishism increases sales after such killings, bringing even more arms into the average American household.

Such an affinity is rooted in the long history of being pushed to believe that guns are intertwined with identities and the answer to problems. What will it take to make a change? The United States continues to resist gun control measures, and its people are more armed than ever before.

The U.S. has one of the largest gun-lobbying groups in the world, the National Rifle Association (NRA), which boasts over five million members and an overall budget of $250 million. The NRA spent over $30 million to support the election of President Donald Trump, and donated over $4 million to politicians in 2016.

The NRA runs ad campaigns that some find comedic, but that fall directly in line with the ideals of many gun-supporting Americans. The lobbying group was able to sidestep bad press from the Las Vegas shooting by offering support for a minor piece of regulation, which has yet to make it through Congress. The organization also released a provocative YouTube video that is essentially a call to arms to its members, defending the idea that guns are still the answer.

On the same day of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, another 87 people were killed in the U.S. from gun-related violence. While mass shootings occur in the U.S. every day, weapons have become such a way of life that these consequences are easily justifiable.

In response to the Las Vegas shooting, the NRA’s push to have bump stocks banned by Congress is a clever move that supports its claims to rationality and support for victims. While the blame quickly shifted to the Obama administration for passing bump stock legislation through Congress, no one questioned the individuals who fight to give people, like Las Vegas shooter Steve Paddock, the right to own 23 high-powered weapons. In the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s shooting in Texas, a few individuals have come out against the NRA, but this will likely fade into the rabble of gun rights and NRA promotional adds.

So, what is it about those two words we hear so often after a mass shooting: guns and liberty? The connection can be traced back before 2009, when the number of guns in the U.S. surpassed the population. However, guns were not always the pride of the American condition.

In the early 1800s, the Massachusetts militia voted to stop annual target practice to avoid public humiliation due to lack of skill in marksmanship. In fact, most guns owned by individuals in these early times were not used for any specific purpose, not even to hunt.

Prior to the American Civil War, guns were largely regarded as either a luxury good, to be admired by gentlemen of the time, or as a relatively useless piece of hardware. The shift to a reliance on guns can be largely accredited to the concerted efforts of Congress to arm their state militias and citizens with weapons that actually worked.

How many more massacres will it take? The answer, unfortunately, seems to be ‘never enough.’ Guns are engraved into the psyche of Americans as their road to liberty and freedom from tyranny. Ironically, the current tyranny seems to come from the people who own the guns. If change is to be made, a decoupling of the ideas of guns and liberty must take place in the American mind.

Source: Creative Commons, Michael Thielen

Author Alexandre Parrott-Mautner

Alexandre Parrott-Mautner is a graduate from York University in Toronto. During his time there, he focused on politics, law and human rights. Alex is interested in Aboriginal affairs, climate change policy and the relationship between the economy and the environment. During his time at York, Alex was the Chair of the York Peer Review Board, as well as a volunteer member of York Model United Nations. After his graduation, Alex volunteered with the Syrian Refugee Sponsorship program in his home town of Huntsville, Ontario, before moving to France for a year to learn french. Alex hopes to take advantage of his time at the Munk School of Global Affairs and all that it has to offer.

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  • Robin says:

    Well Done Lexi! Thanks for sending it to me. I really enjoyed reading it. Well researched, provocative and a refreshing look at a very serious problem.

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