MAINTENANCE. Nicole Bacharan, a specialist in the United States, explains why the debate on the carrying of weapons is today at a standstill there, despite the mass killings.
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The affliction. This Tuesday, May 24, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a young man opened fire and killed nineteen children and two teachers. This is the twenty-seventh school shooting in the United States since the start of the year. For Le Point, Nicole Bacharan, political scientist specializing in the United States, explains how the debate on carrying weapons is frozen. And why this tragedy will not result more than the previous ones in more supervision in this area.
The Point:Ten years ago, Barack Obama pointed to the need for “meaningful action” to “put an end to these tragedies” following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, NY. Connecticut (26 dead, including 20 children). Nothing has changed since?
Nicole Bacharan: No. It's safe to say: nothing has changed since Sandy Hook. Worse, the United States has more guns (300 million) and about a third of Americans (many of whom actually have veritable arsenals) now have them. So, to the pain of this last event is added disgust. That of seeing how the debate on firearms is frozen. And for one simple reason: our politicians can do nothing to counter these tragedies. Barack Obama, a year later, at the ceremony honoring the victims of Newtown, realized it himself, he “wept [was] with rage”. He didn't ask for anything extravagant, however: the traceability of weapons, the prohibition of high-capacity magazines…
So Joe Biden, who in turn called for “confronting the gun lobby”, is as helpless as his predecessors?
Unfortunately, yes. Joe Biden is totally sincere in his approach, these are also positions he has held for decades. But he remains powerless to control the circulation of arms that leads to these tragedies and he knows it. He needs a solid majority in Congress to do that, but he doesn't have it. Furthermore, Joe Biden faces the same weight of lobbies and the same cowardice of local elected officials as his predecessors. The former are capable of conducting formidable campaigns against candidates and elected officials. And in some states, where gun culture is entrenched, this can be prohibitive. Since 2000, and the vigorous campaign of the NRA [National Rifle Association, editor's note] against Al Gore for the presidency of the United States, which he lost with just a few votes, elected officials and candidates no longer dare to move… Also , I am afraid nothing is to be expected from this tragedy.
Should we expect an increase in firearms sales, following this tragedy?
We can already anticipate it. After each tragedy, the public fears that regulatory measures will prevent them from getting them later, and the figures show an increase in the purchase of firearms. In the same way – and this may seem counter-intuitive – arms sales rose during Barack Obama's tenure and fell during Donald Trump's. Not all Americans who get it are fundamentally in favor of it, sometimes it just responds to fear, like during the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Even if the weight of culture remains significant. That of the trailblazers, the great outdoors, and the sheriff you can't wait for; endemic mistrust of a state deemed unwilling to protect individual freedoms…
What to expect in public debate , in the coming days?
After the time of emotion, prayer and contemplation, the debate will undoubtedly focus on the same subject as with each tragedy of this nature: the arming of citizens. Already, today, by evoking that of the teachers in the classrooms [which is already authorized in certain States, Editor's note], the Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, was initiating it. At the same time, pro-gun lobbies and politicians will be quick to instrumentalize the event. It's a safe bet that with reinforcement of language that we know in advance (“It's not the guns that kill, it's the people!”), they will blame this tragedy to a deviant personality. It is also very likely that conspirators, as they did after Sandy Hook [developing a theory according to which this killing was a staging orchestrated by the Democrats, Ed] seize on this tragedy. It is sad to see how much everything is written in advance… And how much, in fact, things are repeated.