Too often, horrific mass shootings such as the massacre of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook in 2012 lead to a jump in gun sales rather than the calls for reform that most Americans support, says one U.S. writer.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, U.S. political commentator and staff writer with The Atlantic David Frum said the data is clear that at least half of Americans favour some form of gun control, but that the country’s political power is skewed towards those that do not.
He spoke in the wake of yet another horrific mass shooting of schoolchildren last week — this time, at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 Grade 4 students and two teachers dead.
“People say nothing changed after Sandy Hook, but actually a lot changed. Things got worse,” he said.
“These massacres are very good for the gun business,” Frum continued. “About three per cent of Americans, by the way, own half the guns in the country — an average of 17 guns per person among that three per cent. So that group, any time there’s a massacre, thinks, ‘Oh my God, I might be unable to get my 18th gun.’
“And so they rush out and buy more guns.”
A 2017 study published in the journal Science looked at the number of background checks done for gun purchases as well as search traffic online for buying and cleaning guns, and determined there was a spike of three million in the four months directly following the Sandy Hook massacre.
A 2016 New York Times investigation pegged the number of guns sold in the month immediately after the massacre at two million, citing fears of restrictions on gun sales.
Sandy Hook remains the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, with Uvalde now taking the grim spot in second place. Guns are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 18.
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Calls are growing once again for gun violence reforms in the U.S.
However, there remains little in the way of clear signals that policy makers at the state and federal levels, as well as in the judicial system, are open to pursuing meaningful changes.
America is in the midst of a pressure cooker primary season and mid-term election year, sharpening the stakes for politicians on both sides of the spectrum as well as voter anger over the continued bloodshed.
“I’m not going to make any prediction about whether this is the massacre that will do it or whether it’s the next one or the one after that. But I do firmly believe that eventually the forces of decency and kindness in American life are going to overcome the forces of grief and blood,” Frum said.
According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, there are four gun control measures that get overwhelming public support, even if there isn’t the political will to act on them.
The Center cited their 2019 national survey of Americans which found 88 per cent of respondents support universal background checks for people buying firearms, 75 per cent support requiring licensing for handgun purchasers, and 74 per cent support requiring people to lock up their guns when not in use.
In addition, 80 per cent support what’s known as extreme risk protection orders, or red flag laws that allow a court to issue an order to remove firearms from an individual believed to pose a risk to themselves or others.