Read few comments.
James Nolan, Associate Professor, Division of Sociology and Anthropology, West Virginia University
I think that this tragedy will create heated debates in the short term, because everyone feels the pain of this tragedy. But, there are well-funded organizations in the U.S. whose sole purpose is to oppose all gun control debate. The U.S. is split on the issue, because some feel that unless you can remove all guns, it is better to possess them for self protection. Therefore, they oppose gun laws. It will be very difficult to change people’s minds about this. Perhaps this incident could ignite a social movement in the U.S. of the magnitude of the civil rights and women’s rights movements of the 1960s. I believe that this is what it would take to make real changes to gun laws.
I think the Newtown massacre is much more likely to have an impact on discussions about gun control than the previous mass shooting incidents we saw this year, because of the scope and horror of this tragedy and the age of the victims. Whether that will ultimately lead to significant changes, I don’t know, but this is a profoundly disturbing incident, and it will require a lot of soul-searching.
That said, there are very entrenched interest groups in this debate, and so far, I have not seen much evidence that those people are changing their positions. But for those whose views fall in the middle, this event may shift the tide toward support for increased gun control.
The politics of the election may have suppressed some of that discussion based on the earlier mass shootings. Now that Obama has the election behind him, he will probably be more aggressive in pushing for new controls, especially in light of the terrible nature of this most recent tragedy and the fact that this year has had more mass shootings than ever before.
It’s worth noting that, while most homicides in the U.S. are committed with firearms, the number of murders here has declined dramatically over the last 20 years both as an absolute number and as a percentage of the population, regardless of shifts in gun control laws. But we treat terrorism very seriously despite the fact that relatively few people die from it, and I think the same logic applies to events like Newtown. When a single type of event can cause a massive number of deaths, it is more likely to be addressed by politicians than a series of smaller events that result in the same number of deaths, or even more.
Ryan King, Associate Professor of Sociology, University at Albany, SUNY
In my opinion the massacre in Newtown will not have a significant impact on gun control in the United States. I say this for three reasons. First, history offers us some clues. We’ve had many fatal shootings at schools during the last 15 years and we have seen no significant gun control legislation in the wake of these tragedies. I doubt this case will be any different. Second, a few years ago the Supreme Court confirmed that states have very little power in restricting the right to possess a firearm (see the District of Columbia versus Heller case from 2008). Third, the pro-gun movement in the United States is very powerful and has incredibly strong support from Republicans (and some Democrats). There will likely be talk of legal change, but at most we’ll see a symbolic law that will have no significant effect on gun violence.
On a related note, I’ll share my personal opinion on the likely utility of any regulation. There are more firearms than adults in the United States. That is not a typo… we are simply saturated with firearms. Even if the government passed a law stopping the production of firearms tomorrow, I doubt this would have any notable effect on gun violence in this country. There are just too many guns in circulation for regulation to have an impact.
First, gun control cannot be approached legally in terms of new laws, for a number of reasons, mainly because the NRA will block any such efforts and because such efforts would be meaningless as well. Second, the latter is mainly because in the United States guns are a part of the culture and the history of the country, whether one likes it or not. No law can change that. Perhaps cultural changes will come about among the people, but this can only happen slowly and will always involve some balance between allowing law-abiding citizens to own guns, on the one hand, and efforts to strengthen security and possibly restrict access to guns by law-violators, on the other. Third, I cannot believe that President Obama and his administration would be so dumb as to try anything in the realm of gun control because this would lead, definitely, to another Tea Party form of resistance, much worse than during his first term, for it would prove, so to speak, that Obama is out to establish a central controlling government that does not respect liberty. The only thing the Obama administration could quietly hope for is that other forces (such as citizen groups, US Congress, or the Republicans) would work towards gun control independently.
Given estimated 300 million firearms now in private hands in US, it is difficult to imagine a strategy that could prevent a determined individual from obtaining a firearm either legally or illegally.
Often, the American debate focuses on preventing criminals from obtaining and using firearms.
The Conn. school massacre raises the problem of how to stop mentally ill people from obtaining firearms or using firearms they already obtained.
The Connecticut shooter would not have been permitted to purchase a handgun from a retail dealer because he wasn’t yet 21. Apparently, the killer used his mother’s guns? I don’t know if his mother obtained the firearms legally, but if she had no criminal record. she could have done. Since the killer planned to kill himself, it is difficult to see how he would have been deterred by a law making it a crime for someone under 21 or someone mentally ill to possess a firearm.
Stephen Sloan, Lawrence J. Chastang Distinguished Professor of Terrorism Studies, University of Central Florida
The shooting at Newton can may have a serious impact on the gun control issue. Now that the election is over President Obama may choose to actively seek reform since the political concern of the impact of the NRA will have lessened.The climate of opinion may be changing concerning America’s love affair with weapons. But the strength of the gun lobby, and constitutional issues may act as barrier for major reform. But there will be more restrictive laws introduced both on the state and local and national level concerning the ownership and registration of weapons.
Nevertheless while gun control is a major issues, it certainly is only one f a complex series of factors that let the the Newton tragedy and other incidents. Is such violence a manifestation of a violent culture?