Deja Vu: American Impotence on Gun Control

The Brood: After Vegas, is there a reasonable middle ground for gun control that America can compromise to, or are we inevitably going to have to change the second amendment?

As an American writing about my country from abroad, I can tell you that beyond the usual, sickening mixture of sadness, rage, and despair I have about the Vegas shooting, there is also a feeling of embarrassed nakedness. America is the only place in the world where these kinds of mass shootings happen, and the only developed country that has actively decided to do nothing.

American commitment to unimpeded gun ownership is infamous abroad. It is infamous and non-sensical to the point of comedy. Being an American in China, the first question I’m often asked by wide-eyed Chinese people, for whom seeing foreigners is a rare, delightful oddity, is “Ah, you’re American! How many guns do you own?”

It’s all very funny, until you grapple with Columbine. With Sandy Hook. With Las Vegas. With the 1.5 million Americans who have died from gun violence since 1968, a number larger than the casualties from all American war deaths, combined.

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When you grapple with these things, you get tired. You get tired because you know that the NRA has several Congressmen in their pocket, and you become tired because you know that even without the money, Republicans still wouldn’t pass gun control measures, because gun ownership and regulation is a Culture War issue. Limits on guns are a limit on identity.

For those familiar with US history, it becomes even more depressing to realize that the 2nd Amendment, a near-religious idol for half of Americans, was not created to guarantee individual gun ownership, but to ensure the existence of the 18th century equivalent of the State Guard, or “well-regulated militias”. It wasn’t until 2008 that the Supreme Court said the 2nd Amendment guaranteed individual ownership of guns, though it made clear that right came with responsibility.

Which is made all the more outrageous because even though we know how to prevent these massacres, we do nothing. We can do what they did in Australia after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. We can do what Britain did, after the Dunblane massacre, also in 1996. Japan. Germany.

A look at UN statistics provides a long list of other examples. Measures come by the dozens. Gun buy-backs. Limits on firepower. Stronger mental health systems. Monitor registered guns more closely. Limit how and where guns can be sold, and on and on and on.

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It can’t be stressed enough: gun massacres are a cultural, moral, and policy choice that we make everyday by not doing something. As a country, collectively, we are telling ourselves, our families, neighbors, and even the children of Sandy Hook, that their lives are not worth as much as our right to own any kind of weapon we want, at any time.

When ISIS guns down innocent people in another hemisphere we cry out over the injustice. When American guns kill American people, and American blood runs in American streets, and Americans die live on American TV – why do we sigh and shrug our shoulders?

I have no hope for gun control measures until the culture changes. But if it doesn’t change after Sandy Hook, or after Vegas, when will it change?


Are you more optimistic about the prospects for gun control measures? What do you think it would take for Americans to pass gun law reforms? Comment and share your thoughts!

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Written and edited by Dylan Welch, co-host and creator of the Municipals podcast.

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