Any number of school shootings in the US doesn’t seem to affect the nation’s horrifying attitude to guns. PETER FROST tries to discover why
JOHN HANLIN (above) is the Oregon sheriff in charge of investigating the latest US school shooting: the one at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, on Thursday.
After the Sandy Hook school shootings in 2012 Sheriff Hanlin not only wrote to Vice President Joe Biden demanding that there be no new gun laws but also threatening not to obey them if they were introduced.
“Gun control is not the answer to preventing crimes like school shootings,” Sheriff Hanlin wrote. “Any federal regulation enacted by Congress … shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies.”
In a TV interview shortly after the Roseburg shooting Hanlin said gun control has “certainly got to be part of the discussion but my position on it has not changed.”
If you think this is an unusual viewpoint consider the Roseburg school’s local pastor. He told anyone who would listen that “if the students had weapons, they could have fought back and protected themselves.”
Those kind of opinions are widely held in the US and the body that does most to encourage them is the four-and-a-half-million-strong National Rifle Association (NRA).
NRA lobbying is one of the main reasons for the US’s appalling culture of gun violence. And it is appalling. This is the 45th shooting on school grounds in the US this year.
The US and its rulers are fixated by terrorism, yet in the last 10 years terrorism has claimed just two dozen lives. Guns on the other hand have caused well over a quarter of a million fatalities.
The NRA is always quick with a response to any gun incident. “The best solution to a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun,” is their usual line.
NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre (below) said schools had become a target for insane killers because guns were banned in schools. He is calling for armed guards in every school. More guns, not less.
NRA lobbying and its bumper stickers with messages like “If you want to take my gun you will need to pry it from my cold dead hands” have been the major factor in keeping the US’s gun laws so free and easy.
The NRA is directly financed by the billion-dollar gun and ammunition industry. Capitalists don’t care how many people die, how many men, women and kids get blown to pieces. They care solely about the profits that come from selling guns and ammunition to a public fixated by the gun culture.
To understand why the NRA is so influential you need to understand the history of the second amendment of the US constitution.
Before the late 1970s courts from the Supreme Court down ruled that the second amendment only applied to state militias, giving them the right to bear arms — but did not give individuals the right to own or carry a weapon.
In 1977 the NRA, which had previously been a non-political organisation devoted in the main to promoting hunting and gun safety, was overtaken by a group of hardcore conservatives.
The NRA then launched a ferocious campaign for a new interpretation of the second amendment, one that gave every individual the right to bear arms, not just militias.
For the next 30 years the new NRA leadership pressed politicians to support the right to carry guns. One strong weapon was to rate Congress and Senate members on their attitude to guns. The NRA listings could seriously affect a politician’s chance of being elected.
Ironically any shooting incident actually leads to a spike in gun sales.
Whenever there is a well-publicised shooting like Columbine, New Hook and no doubt the latest atrocity in Oregon, the NRA is quick to insist that the government will now try and ban guns, so buy one quick.
Their other argument will be that the only way to stop mass shootings is for everyone else to have a gun too.
This means that whenever there is a shooting incident the sales of guns increases dramatically.
In 2008 the NRA persuaded the Supreme Court to officially embrace the “individual rights” view of the second amendment.
That decision led to rocketing gun sales. The US returned to the Wild West where the gun is king, minor disputes quickly turn deadly and everyone assumes everyone else has a gun.
Every single day in the US 85 people are killed by guns.
I’ll leave others to pick over all the salacious details of the latest Oregon shooting.
I’m just sad that the blood of those poor students in Oregon will mean yet more gun sales, yet more money pouring into the NRA and yet more massacres.
However, the capitalists of the gun industry and their puppets at the NRA will be laughing all the way to the bank.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star 5 Oct 2015