US gun lobby may yet find itself outfought
Youngsters worldwide have taken to the streets in the wake of the Florida school slaughter, and the National Rifle Association has a battle on its hands
Sandy Hook tested the faith of the growing majority of Americans who want tougher rules on who can buy, sell and own guns. It is the name of an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, where a young gunman slaughtered 20 first-graders and six teachers with his mother’s rifle in 2012. Even that did not persuade lawmakers to heed pleas to tighten laws on gun control. This prompted the question, if Sandy Hook did not spur reform, what will?
It remains true that politics and the lobbying strength of the National Rifle Association ensure that any move to place basic checks on the constitutional right of every American to keep and bear arms will be voted down.
However, there is a new dynamic in the debate. The mass shooting that left 17 dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida, a few weeks ago finally brought young people onto the streets in hundreds of gun-control rallies across the nation. They also rallied in overseas cities with large expatriate populations, including a turnout of 700 to 800 in Hong Kong.
Perhaps the NRA should reflect a little on the role of young people from children to young adults in campaigns for social and moral justice that changed American society. They were pivotal in the civil rights movement of the 1960s for racial equality and desegregation, through meetings, marches etc.
Similarly, their campaign against the Vietnam war was decisive in turning public and political sentiment against a military and moral quagmire that led President Lyndon B. Johnson to decide against seeking re-election.
Sandy Hook prompted then president Barack Obama to strengthen enforcement by clarifying existing laws. That is a long way from stricter background checks for gun ownership, higher legal age limits and bans on military-grade assault rifles, the minimum goals of meaningful reform.
But if the killings continue and unarmed young people keep coming out on the streets and demanding that politicians declare their position, the NRA might have a tough fight on its hands in maintaining its argument that people, and not guns, kill people. A lot of people would still be alive today if it had not been so easy for their killers to buy deadly weapons.