The horrific shooting of fifty people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, by ISIS/Daesh supporter Omar Mateen, highlights the huge problem of gun control in the United States. President Barack Obama is quick to condemn those who participate in the murder of innocent Americans when an incident like this happens. Yet, his rhetoric fails to translate into swift action. It remains incredibly difficult to change the law on the right to possess firearms, for a multitude of reasons.
Firstly, the National Rifle Association (NRA) acts as a prominent voice to advocate the rights of Americans who wish to possess a gun. Indeed, the effect they have on the United States Government is significant. According to USA Today, the NRA claims to have five million members at present. The Institute for Legislative Action, which is part of the NRA, is currently managing an informative website designed to stop the "Californication" of Nevada’s gun laws - attempting to prevent a measure from being enacted that would extend firearm background checks to private party sales. The Institute’s argument is that this measure would tax pre-existing law enforcement resources and will fail to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms. The NRA’s motto "when nothing less than freedom is at stake, we fight" rests on the idea of American liberty and freedom that originate in the War of Independence, when the Second Amendment was written. With such considerable influence and lobbying power it is little wonder it is an endless struggle to reform these laws.
The Second Amendment of the United States’ Constitution claims that: "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed". Obama has always maintained that gun laws in the United States can be sensibly reformed, as he did following the San Bernardino shootings. Nevertheless, considering that an amendment to the Constitution needs a two-thirds vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as ratification by three-quarters of state legislatures, reform seems highly unlikely whilst the Republicans dominate Congress.
Obama claims gun reform is the "greatest frustration" of his presidency, but has decided to plough on with gun reform regardless, until he stands down in 2017. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took place in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, led to the deaths of 20 children aged between 6 and 7 years old. The attempted Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 was introduced in the 113th Congress on 24th January 2013. The bill was designed to prohibit the sale, manufacture and importation of 157 of the most commonly-owned, military-style assault weapons. The bill was defeated at the time. For all Obama’s rhetoric about gun reform, it is unlikely there will be any real reform before his term ends.
Luckily for Obama, a Gallup poll published after the December shootings in California suggested that 55% of Americans supported stricter gun laws. In a poll conducted in October 2015, 86% of Americans favoured a law "which would require universal background checks for all gun purchases in the United States". Yet, polls also show that 53% of Americans believed that gun reform would have little or no effect on the number of shootings in America. Only 27% of people polled opposed the notion of banning firearms altogether.
Due to this combination of factors, it will be very difficult for any US president to reform gun laws. And such reforms will be particularly difficult to achieve if the Republicans dominate the Presidency as well as both Houses of Congress by the end of this year.
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