Florida school shooting: Repeated incidents are beginning to change public opinion in the US
Support for tighter regulations has surged after a number of major shootings, most notably the Las Vegas hotel killings in October last year which resulted in 59 deaths.editorials Updated: Feb 15, 2018 18:13 IST
The latest school shooting in Florida, which has killed 17 people, is the eighth gun-related incident that drew blood this year.
The shooting will have no immediate impact on US gun control regulations. With the Republican Party firmly in power in both houses of Congress and a president, Donald Trump, who campaigned on opposing any limits on the “right to bear arms”, the status quo will remain on the legislative front. Last December, if anything, the Congress saw an attempt to further dilute the already weak gun control laws.
The more positive development is that these repeated incidents, however gradually, are beginning to change public opinion in the US. Gallup, which has monitored US attitudes towards gun control for decades, showed last month that the number of Americans who support stricter gun control has risen to 60%, steadily increasing from a low of 44% in 2011. Those who feel the rules should be loosened even further are down to only five per cent.
Support for tighter regulations has surged after a number of major shootings, most notably the Las Vegas hotel killings in October last year which resulted in 59 deaths. The Florida shooting should garner more support for legislative action.
However, no one should hold their breath. The Republican Party’s white working-class base has long ago merged restrictions on gun ownership with a larger narrative of a big city establishment that has pauperised them economically, overridden their more conservative social views in areas like gay rights, and demeaned their religious views and ethnicity.
Gun control can only be separated from this larger sense of alienation if the US is able to bridge what has become an enormous divide within its society – a divide that directly fed into the surprise presidential election victory of Donald Trump. There is little evidence of that happening so far. Which is why it would take a super-majority of US voters, and those who would put gun control above all else as a political issue, to convert anti-gun thinking into actual legislative action. In other words, expect nothing to happen until mid-term congressional elections in November this year – and only if they result in the Democrats winning control of both houses.
Soon after he ceased to be president, Barack Obama in an interview called his inability to do much about gun control “[his] greatest failure”. The bizarreness of gun policy in the US can be seen even with the present Congress. It has repeatedly passed legislation approving millions of dollars in spending to beef up security in US schools – in effect acknowledging there is a shooter problem in the country. But it has sought to simultaneously reduce gun controls overall. The Florida shooting will not be a tipping point, but each such incident seems to be moving the US in that direction.