Republicans in the US Congress are likely to continue the years old tradition of blocking new gun control measures proposed by Democrats amid a number of deadly mass shootings across the United States, experts told Sputnik
WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 06th June, 2022) Republicans in the US Congress are likely to continue the years old tradition of blocking new gun control measures proposed by Democrats amid a number of deadly mass shootings across the United States, experts told Sputnik.
President Joe Biden on Thursday evening delivered a speech in which he called on Congress to move forward on proposed gun control measures such as red flag laws, a ban on so-called assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips, raising the age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21. His speech came a day after a mass shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 1; a school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24; and a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, on May 14.
Michael Anestis, associate professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health and executive director of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center, told Sputnik that Biden's proposals have good data to show that these measures would curb gun violence, but getting Congress to act will be a tougher task.
"With the filibuster in place, we need ten Republican senators to sign their name to any bill that directly addresses firearms and historically that has been an unlikely occurrence, and so it's hard for me to see Federal action. But I do think the President's speech could prompt a clearer picture among the population of just how unwilling some folks are to act and then frustration can prompt state level action," Anestis said.
Robert Spitzer, a gun control expert and professor at State University of New York College at Cortland, told Sputnik the easy availability of too many guns with too little regulation is the major contributor to gun violence.
"It is possible that the Senate might act in the next couple of weeks though the likelihood of success is still small," Spitzer said.
Money from gun rights lobbying groups is too substantial to get even the most moderate Republicans to sign off on anything that regulates firearms, he said.
According to OpenSecrets, gun rights lobbying groups spent $15.8 million in 2021, which is the most recorded since 1998. The National Shooting sports Foundation donated the most, $5 million, and the National Rifle Association donated $4.9 million.
FEAR LEADS TO MORE GUN SALES IN US
During the National Rifle Association's annual convention in Houston, Texas, on May 27, US Sen. Ted Cruz and North Carolina's Republican Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson rejected gun control measures, saying there are already gun control laws on the books, and raised the alarm that their gun rights are in danger.
"Over the last couple years, there's been an absolutely unprecedented surge in firearm sales," Anestis said. "What's interesting on the data on that is the folks who have purchased during this time and the folks who have thought about purchasing during this time ... They are less tolerant of uncertainty, they find the world more threatening, people more threatening, folks can't be trusted, the world's dangerous, this fear drives up (gun) sales. A lot of people profit directly off of fear."
However, Anestis pointed out that the majority of gun-related deaths in the United States come from suicides and a majority of gun-related homicides do not stem from public mass shootings like in Uvalde and Buffalo, but rather the day-to-day gun violence on the streets that disproportionately impacts black and brown communities in urban spaces.
There are some 4 million firearms in circulation in US households, which serves as a major driving point to the reason the United States has such a high rate of gun violence compared to other countries.
"Most of the factors that people will point to: mental illness and poverty and lack of opportunity, and all sorts of other things, those exist in all sorts of other countries that don't have gun violence," Anestis said. "What doesn't exist in these other countries is this sort of massive arsenal that we have ... we are a society that has chosen to accept the risk that comes from relatively unfettered access to firearms."
Anestis said safe storage laws and firearm licensing laws have been effective measures to bring down rates of both suicide and homicides. Firearm licensing laws prevent individuals with a history of violence or considered at-risk for future violence or self-harm, from obtaining a gun.
"You've seen things like extreme protection orders (red flag laws) pass in red states, they just don't pass federally," Anestis said. "A lot of work can be (done) trying to get firearm owners themselves whose perspectives are not represented by the gun lobby. Gun owners typically do value safety. They do support a lot of regulations, but getting the firearm community to work from a data driven perspective to promote things like safe storage as a cultural norm could go a huge way to reducing all forms of gun violence."
Red flag laws authorize police or family members to petition state courts to temporarily remove firearms from an individual deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. Only five US states had red flag laws before the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida in 2018, which included California, Washington, Oregon, Indiana and Connecticut.
On Thursday, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the chamber will vote on gun control legislation next week that includes measures such as raising the legal age to obtain a centerfire rifle or shotgun to 21 years, requiring all firearms be traceable, mandating safe storage of firearms and closing the so-called "bump stock loophole."
US senators have said they are making progress and there is growing momentum on bipartisan legislation to counter gun violence.