Why The Charleston Shooting Won’t Lead To New Gun Controls


The mass killing in Charleston won’t lead to new gun-control laws, says political scientist Robert Spitzer of the State University of New York Cortland. Writing in the Washington Post, Spitzer said that for nearly a century, changes in gun laws have been keyed to two sets of events: gun-related violence and assassinations. This included the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Yet the 2012 Newtown, Ct., school shooting led to the failure of gun laws in the Senate, showing how gun policy change has become progressively more difficult.

Spitzer’s main explanations: While more Americans favor than oppose tougher laws that could actually have some effect on gun violence such as uniform background checks, the issue is far down the list of issue concerns for average voters. The U.S. has to some degree become inured to gun violence. With each new mass shooting, the sense of horror erodes, and so does pressure on legislators, heightening feelings that nothing effective can be done. Finally, the gun lobby has been successful in changing the narrative of the gun issue. It says that guns aren't the problem, it is bad people who do bad things; gun laws don't work; and Second Amendment gun rights must be protected. Their success in advancing these arguments lies with the relative weakness of pro-gun control forces, although that may be changing.

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