Americans are still reeling from the trauma brought forth by the school shooting that took place on Wednesday, Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. A conversation that is all too familiar to many is once again returning to the limelight, that of gun violence in the US and the extent to which new gun laws should be implemented to prevent tragedies of this nature from occuring ever again. As many have noted, a key distinguishing feature about Stoneman Douglas is that, in the wake of the shooting, student survivors have spoken out against the National Rifle Association (NRA). Students like Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and Sarah Chadwick are achieving high-profile activist levels of spotlight for their claims that the NRA are chief among the adult parties responsible for allowing the shooting to take place.
“We should change the names of AR-15s to ‘Marco Rubio’ since they are so easy to buy,” Chadwick tweeted on Feb. 22, referencing the fact that Republican senators like Rubio receive large sums of donation money from the NRA. To some, this degree of lobbying and ideologically driven donations points to the seediness of the US congressional and legislative arms seeming as if they are being paid to enact and restrict certain laws from passing based on donors’ agendas.
It’s irrefutable that the NRA opposes gun control — they adamantly refuse to change their positions on major gun laws that many believe should change to combat mass shootings. But the bigger question to ask is, just how much of a role do lobbying groups like the NRA play in the realm of gun control legislature?
Lobbying directly translates to money in politicians’ pockets, which in turn directly translates to obstacles built by money. Lobbyists (not limited to the NRA) grease the palms of politicians, who, history has taught us, have a tendency to bow down to the highest bidder. In this case, nobody’s pockets run deeper than the NRA’s. They stifle productive debate of gun control by focusing their lobbying efforts on turning gun issues into issues of Constitutional freedom. Unfortunately for the greater majority of the American public, nothing substantial can happen that lobbying groups like the NRA don’t want, at least not without massive efforts from the public to overcome their influence.
Within this debate, it is important to consider whether or not the right to bear arms should be a privilege rather than a right. This, however, leads into an entirely different (and, potentially, more heated) area of debate regarding Amendment changes. Americans, however, value the Second Amendment far too much to consider altering it; the semantics of the Second Amendment remain unchallenged, though current and future bipartisan discourse need analyze it to bring forth progress.
The operative word looming over the minds of millions is action. What action must be taken to deter another Stoneman Douglas, another Las Vegas, another Sandy Hook? Where does the NRA fit in with all this? Legally speaking, the only way to get rid of (most) mass shootings is to go through a Constitutional amendment process to alter the Second Amendment and limit gun rights, but one can assume that politicians on the NRA bankroll would be opposed to considering this.
The next option, shy of repealing or attacking the Second Amendment, is passing gun control laws in a very red Congress, which will also never happen beyond token efforts like banning bump stocks or raising the age limit from 18 to 21 — something President Donald Trump has recently advocated for. The gunman, 19, was legally able to purchase an assault rifle despite numerous red flags prior to his purchase. These red flags include, but are not limited to, anonymous tips to the FBI concerning a troublesome Youtube comment under the gunman’s name and his obvious emotional troubles. This points to what should be a no-brainer: The importance of background checks when purchasing a firearm. It stands to reason that not every single American deserves the privilege of owning a tool specifically designed to cause death, let alone a military-grade rifle specifically designed to cause multiple deaths within a short time frame.
Home defense, naturally, is equally an important issue for many Americans — a wholly justifiable point of view. But must citizens be armed with anything more than semi-automatic handguns, traditional hunting rifles or even semi-automatic shotguns? It’s impossible to please both camps of the gun control debate, but establishing a middle ground that isn’t as ludicrous as arming teachers or banning all weapons is the key to cooling, not fanning, the flames of ideological-turned-personal wars.
In the immediacy of post-gun-violence-tragedy discourse, finger-pointing and rash conclusions are inevitable, but unproductive responses. As important as the issue of gun control is, as crucial to this problem the NRA is, there are other sides to the conversation that need to be heard. In spite of all wrongdoings they should be held accountable for, to outright and holistically demonize them and disregard the firearm safety education they bring is reductive. Responsible firearm owners pose no threat and should not be held in the same light as the ideologues whose phobia of rational debates restrict progress. The FBI, and especially the Broward County Police Department are accountable entities that failed to save the lives of 17 young adults. This isn’t unique to this shooting, and no tragedy is exactly the same. However, progress arrives from the cohesion of parties willing to coalesce their resources and deliver concrete methods to stomp out this uniquely American tumor. What we need isn’t teachers with guns or militant defense ready to mow down the slightest of potential threats: We need policy, and we need to hold our politicians and their lobbyists accountable, lest the reputation of money-driven scum of the earth politician-businessman be perpetuated.
What we need to understand is that the current system doesn’t work. Immediately after shootings, political spats ensue, with liberals’ gun control rhetoric being met with conservatives’ decrying attempts to fold tragedy into politics. Two weeks later, we’re on to the next big thing. Security at schools shouldn’t and wouldn’t even be an issue if there was no threat, and while it is important that educators train themselves and their students in the case of an attack, this unfortunate reality is predicated on the pathetic laws that allowed a mentally unfit 19-year-old to take those 17 lives with a legally purchased military-grade rifle.