4 Reasons Gun-Control Legislation Hasn’t Gone Anywhere

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Reality check: This year there have been more mass shootings than days: 213 so far. 

When we think of the lives lost, the families and loved ones in mourning, the shattered communities, the kids who went to school in the morning and never came back home… we’re filled with grief. 

Grief, but also anger and frustration. How can these shootings keep happening without anything being done to stop them?

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Americans WANT an End to Gun Violence

Firearms are now the leading cause of death among children in the US, but to hear some politicians tell it, you’d think that Americans uniformly believe the right to gun ownership is all but sacred—that this is a country so in love with firearms that it will accept the slaughter of children on a routine basis.

But that’s simply not true. Poll after poll show that huge majorities of Americans are in favor of common-sense legislation to end gun violence. 

  • 89% of Americans support background checks
  • 86% support red-flag laws (laws that prevent people who are considered a threat to themselves or others from owning a gun)
  • 66% support the creation of a nationwide database to track gun sales
  • 64% support banning high-capacity magazines (that hold more than 10 rounds)
  • 63% support banning assault weapons

And yet, even with all this public support, somehow we still don’t have meaningful laws in place that can end gun violence. It feels almost incomprehensible. But there are four big reasons why this country, pretty much alone among all countries on the planet, remains stuck in an endless epidemic of gun violence. 

  1. $$$

    There are around 393 million guns in America—that’s more than one per person. Americans account for about 46% of all civilian-owned guns in the world! Dealing with a problem of this magnitude isn’t easy, but it’s made all the more difficult by a political system that’s flooded with money from big corporations and lobbying groups. 

    Simply put, pro-gun groups donate way more money to lawmakers than do organizations working for gun-violence prevention. Many, many politicians, most of them Republicans, get millions of dollars from pro-gun groups every year—money that ensures they’ll keep doing absolutely nothing to end this epidemic of gun violence.

  2. The National Rifle Association (NRA)

    The NRA is the largest pro-gun organization in the US. Believe it or not, the NRA was actually in favor of legislation to end gun violence back in the late 1800s when it was founded. In fact, back then, there was little talk of the Second Amendment or gun rights—everybody pretty much agreed that there should be restrictions on the use and ownership of firearms. 

    The NRA was still in favor of tightening gun laws in the 1920s and even as recently as the ’60s, but it’s been dominated by gun hardliners for the last 50 years. Over that time, no single organization has done so much, or spent so much money, to derail legislation to curb gun violence than the NRA. 

  3. The Filibuster

    Sure, there’s tons of cash pouring into politicians’ campaigns but, as you saw with those numbers above, clearly Americans still want them to do something to end the violence and bloodshed. Don’t our elected representatives work for us? Why won’t they act?

    In the US Senate, the problem is the filibuster. The filibuster is an archaic, antidemocratic Senate rule that allows the minority party (right now, the Republican Party is in the minority) to require 60 votes for legislation to pass. It has, infamously and regularly, been used to block civil rights legislation in the past. In this case, the filibuster is making it impossible for meaningful legislation that would end gun violence to move forward, even though a solid majority of senators want it to. 

  4. The Second Amendment

    OK, let’s take a moment to imagine that Congress somehow, despite all that, passes substantial laws that will help prevent gun violence. (The compromise bill to curb gun violence that passed last year was significant in that it actually got bipartisan support, but its effect on our gun-violence epidemic will likely be quite minimal.) We still wouldn’t be out of the woods, because the increasingly conservative Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment of the US Constitution protects the rights of gun owners from just about any regulations. 

    We’ll admit that we’re a bit confused about how a vaguely worded sentence written when muskets were the weapon of choice (1791) can be interpreted today as an ironclad decree that Americans should be able carry around brutally powerful assault weapons, but this is where we are.

Where We Go From Here

We need to take action now. And the first thing we have to do is follow the money. As long as pro-gun groups funnel millions of dollars into the accounts of elected officials, change—while not impossible—is improbable. 

Curious about how much cash your senator is receiving from the NRA and other pro-gun groups? Check out Open Secrets today and spread the word about why Congress has done so little to stem gun violence in this country.

Do Your Senators Benefit From NRA Money?

Learn more now!