On May 4, 2022 at 11:33am, a gunman armed with a rifle from Daniel Defense (similar to Armalite’s AR-15), and a tactical vest without armor plates entered Robb elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. He then committed a mass shooting that lasted for about 1 hour and 15 minutes where 19 children and two teachers were killed. The shooter’s possession and use of such a firearm, as well as police’s timing and handling of the situation was chaotic at best, and devastatingly misconducted at worst. This tragedy has become all too common in the United States, and as with every mass shooting carried out year after year, has brought with it cries for gun regulation. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/09/us/uvalde-shooting-police-response.html).
Prior to the regularity of school shootings in the United States, an ongoing effort has been made by the public to develop and refine gun legislation, in order to decrease the chances of further school shootings and provide America with a safer future. The passing of gun legislation can be found throughout the 20th century, frequently arriving hand in hand with various gun-related tragedies. The Gun Control Act of 1968 was imposed following the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The act banned the importing of guns without “sporting purpose”, imposed age restrictions of handguns, prohibited felons, those diagnosed as mentally ill, and others from purchasing guns, requiring that all manufactured or imported guns have a serial number, and other restrictions resulting in stricter licensing and regulation on the firearms industry. (https://time.com/5169210/us-gun-control-laws-history-timeline/). Since then, we have imposed other acts, amendments, and laws to continue to improve the quality and effectiveness of gun control in America. This includes codifying certain gun control measures and establishing the FBI-backed NICS to perform background checks. Public opinion has largely been in support of these measures, both in decades past and present day. According to Gallup polls, in 28 of the last 30 years, a majority of the public felt that the laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict than they were currently, with that percentage being as high as 78%. The same Gallup data shows that for the last 30 years, less than 15% of those polled believed laws covering the sale of firearms should be made less strict than they were currently (https://news.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx).
One infamous firearm subject to constant debate in the American political sphere is the AR-15. Being the weapon of choice for mass shootings since the assault weapons ban of 2004 was lifted, many Americans, including, according to a Harvard study, 83% of gun owners and 72% of NRA members, support a universal background check on all purchases of the rifle. Yet the NRA adamantly opposes such regulation. The NRA has been using its massive wealth to support candidates that echo its extreme stances on gun control. For instance, even though the vast majority of all Americans support universal background checks, the NRA used $16.3 million to support the Trump candidacy in 2020, and $54 million in total during the 2016 election year – some of which also went towards the Trump campaign, with Trump being part of the vocal minority in opposition to these regulations. They also used $13 million to support Mitt Romney’s campaign versus former president Barack Obama. The NRA has spent millions more towards political campaigns of various senators and representatives in an attempt to influence gun control measures at the state and federal level.
The results of NRA expenditures on politicians have not been fruitless to the organization, either. The NRA was able to reject gun control efforts after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, instead announcing an NRA training program and calling for armed police officers in every school in the country. A year later, the NRA was able to block an assault weapon ban that President Barack Obama pushed. Despite the majority of Americans in 2013 backed tiger gun laws, the NRA began a campaign to “Stop the Gun Ban” which, unsurprisingly, had the majority vote in the U.S. Senate, 60 to 40 (https://stacker.com/stories/13620/history-nra).
I argue that this quid-pro-quo donation system established in our public offices today is staunchly anti-democratic. The role of any elected official is to represent those that elected them, not some non-governmental organization that financially contributed to their campaign. The volume of money contributed to these political campaigns vastly overshadows the will of the people who demand gun control in the eyes of politicians. Our democratic institutions will continue to erode lest we demand change, and hopefully prevent another tragedy like the Uvalde shooting from occurring again.