Sunday, February 25

How identity won the battle for gun control in the US

The shooting club appeared in the deviation of a wooded road in Connecticut, one of the northeastern states from United States where was born the arms industry in the XIX century. It was a Tuesday during work hours. In the buckets to shoot, there were only two men. One meticulously cleaned the weapon, unhurriedly, waxing the barrel like someone rubbing a back, tilting his head to see the shine of those black steel tendons. Was a AR-15the civilian version of m16 Assault Rifle, used in all american wars since Vietnam. The man talked about how to handle weapons safely, how he kept them at home to protect your familyof why he was an important military man in the NRA or why the position regarding the weapons of the candidates was going to determine their vote in the electoral period. For this man from suburban America, guns weren’t just a distraction on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they were an essential part of who he was, essential part of their identity.

There are millions of Americans like him. A 42% of the population of the country says to have weapons at homeaccording to Gallup, nine points less than in 1995. Of these, the 54% tend to vote Republican, compared to 31% who lean towards the Democrats. There are more weapons in the rural zones than in urban ones. more among the mens that the women. more in the south than in the west or northwest. And it is certainly the white man the most armed among the different races, according to another Pew Center survey. “In the 1970s, when people were asked why they had guns, hunting and shooting were the main motivations,” explains Phillip Cook, a professor at Duke and the author of several books on the subject. “That has completely changed. Today is the self defense against crime the main motivation, although there is also an important sector that has them as protection from tyranny, to be able to face the Government. It is no longer the best-selling shotguns but the pistols. Today people buy weapons to use against other people,” adds Cook.

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More than 110 dead every day

The mass shootingsHorrible as they are, they are not America’s main problem. And that the latter are especially vile. In buffalo (New York), a racist massacre in a supermarket. In Uvalde, Texas, the most execrable of the crimes of a species that has killed until it is full, 19 elementary school children and two teachers shot to death. The real problem is the 41,000 people shot to death each year (including suicides), many of them in poor neighborhoods in St. Louis, Detroit, New Orleans, or Cleveland. More than 110 people every day.

Their deaths only come out in the local news. In the nationals, only when the trend breaks records. But the media get tired quickly, they give it up for a lost cause. Racismurbanism, povertyeducation, servicesdrugs, violence. Too much to explain, too much to unravel. More morbidly captivating are mass shootings. Those with more than 4 deaths, according to the standard FBI definition, of which there have been an average of 19 a year since 2009according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

Immobility in Washington

But no matter how bloody the massacres are, nothing changes in washingtonwhere the republican right It has been blocking any substantial reform for years. Only laws are tightened or relaxed –depending on who governs– in the states.

It tends to be thought that the Conservative immobility is a product of money they receive from the NRA (National Rifle Association), the powerful weapons lobby that serves as a cover for the interests of the industry, the same one that this weekend celebrates its annual convention in houston, just a few hundred kilometers from the Uvalde massacre. It has 4.5 million affiliates and another 12 million who sympathize with their cause. But the truth is that the NRA contributions to their related candidates represent less than 0.5% of the money they raise, according to an analysis by ‘The Washington Post’.

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“If Republicans oppose gun control, it is because the conservative identity it is today inseparable from weapons,” NBC News cultural critic Noah Berlatsky wrote in 2019. A cocktail shaker that also includes the opposition to abortionthe low taxes or the defense of fossil fuels. “Identity is a deeper motive than money and, for those who want to end gun violence, also more uncompromising.” Just take a look at the announcements for the November elections. More than a hundred Republican candidates mention weapons in their spots, appear shooting or boast of their ties to the sector.

Weapons as a sign of republican identity

“Me I believe in Jesus, guns and babies”, said a candidate for governor of Georgia. “Babies, borders and bullets. Conservative values, values ​​that we defend”, underlined an aspiring senator in Arkansas. It wasn’t always like this. During the sixties there was considerable right-wing support for gun control, not least because it was intended to disarm the black militancygroups like black panthers who advocated armed revolution. ronald reaganthe quintessential conservative hero, legislated against guns when he was governor of California.

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But everything began to change in 1977 with the riot at the NRA’s Cincinnati convention, when radicals took control of a hitherto relatively loose organization. Any step back was considered a defeat towards the confiscation of the 390 million weapons currently in the country. The paranoiathe extremism and the populism came to dominate the organization, which gradually introduced other elements into its narrative, such as the demonization of immigrantsthe contempt for liberal elites or racism towards blacks.

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Some identity traits that the Republican Party he ended up making his own. “The Republicans found out it was a win-win for them and basically sealed their marriage with the NRA,” says Cook. That has made it almost impossible to legislate against weapons in Washington. The Democrats would need 60 votes in the Senate, an arithmetic that does not exist. Hence, this time too, the debate is dead before it has even begun.

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