Gun Control: Americans Are Showing Their Duplicity
By Kim Song-hee, Researcher, Institute of Communication Research, Chonnam National University
Recently the Connecticut school shooting has been stirring a new debate and discussion over gun control in American society. Since President Obama said “We can’t tolerate this anymore. We must end these tragedies”, the calls for new national gun control measures are expected to grow stronger than ever. In spite of such a positive climate about gun control, however, it seems unlikely that the new bill that totally regulates gun sales and ownership will be passed. Gun control is one of ‘hot potatoes’ including the death penalty, birth control and same sex marriage in the U.S., but gun control is also the most delicate, complex and uneasy issue more so than other issues.
Of course, from the view of outsiders including me, there seems to be a very simple solution to the continual mass shooting incidents. The best way to prevent repeated terrible tragedies is to enact the gun regulation law that anyone cannot own and carry a gun easily. But why have American people been so divided over gun control for a long time? Why can they not achieve a consensus despite witnessing the many people killed in mass shootings? Here are diverse aspects of political and cultural backgrounds beyond a superficial figure surrounding the gun control.
First of all, the history of gun ownership in the U. S. dates back to the colonial times and the pioneer period of America. At that time a gun was the only means to protect people’s lives and property, therefore the right to bear arms to save one’s life was entrenched in the Second Amendment. Since then, gun culture had become a kind of custom and ritual among American people. There is one example from when I lived in Columbia city in Missouri as a visiting scholar, I had an opportunity to talk with a pastor about gun control. Although he had a liberal point of view over other hot issues, he was only just a strong opponent to gun control. He already owned a gun and had it at his house. In answer to my question “Why don’t you agree with gun regulation?” he said that “It is the only thing to protect my family and myself. If armed robbers broke into my home, I need to defend myself and I have the right to self-defense with a gun.” Through the conversation with him, I could figure out a deep-rooted thinking of ordinary people about the gun.
Secondly, gun control is tied up with various political interests in American society. One of the strong opponents to stricter gun control is, the so called the largest lobby group, the National Rifle Association (NRA). They are exercising powerful influences with a terrific amount of organization and money, so the Republican Party based in rural areas and conservatives have been representing their voices and opinions against gun control. Following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the NRA defended a call for armed guards at schools and even supported a law allowing law-abiding citizens to bring a firearm into a ‘church, workplace, or retail establishment.’
Eventually, it seems difficult to make a fundamental solution to gun ownership in the U. S., even though an urgent countermeasure has to be established. The irony and duplicity of American people can be found through the news that gun sales recorded an all-time high after the shooting incident.