Massive NRA lobby, pro-gun judges and other key factors which could defeat any gun buy-back scheme in the US
A number of Democratic presidential hopefuls have sought a buyback but the number of guns in circulation is at 16 million and the challenge is huge.
Democrat presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke has proposed a massive buy-back in a bid to curb the shooting menace which is rampant in American society. The Representative from Texas vowed in a recent debate to take back the deadly AR-15 and AK-47 rifles from people. However, O’Rourke’s idea has not struck a chord with many, even from his own party, for people feel there are far too many weapons in the country to confiscate. However, O’Rourke is not the only politician to have proposed such an idea. At least two other Democratic candidates in Kamala Harris and Julian Castro, besides other leaders, have backed the idea of buying back weapons.
O’Rourke’s idea has a similarity with New Zealand government’s move of buying back guns following the mosque massacres in Christchurch in March 2019. Six days after the attacks, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern government came up with a ban on “military-style” semi-automatic rifles. New Zealand’s neighbor Australia is also known to have implemented strict gun-control laws in the mid-1990s that have reduced the menace on their soil substantially.
Can gun violence in the US be controlled the way it has been in Australia and New Zealand? In New Zealand, over 10,000 firearms were bought by the government in less than a month as part of its gun buyback scheme.
In the US, the number of guns in circulation is at 16 million which creates an immense challenge in rounding them up. New Zealand has a population of around five million while the US is home to 330 million people and it is the third most populous country in the world. Buying those many guns back will also put the government’s finances under a big pressure.
The number of AR-15 and AK-47s in the US is estimated at a staggering 16 million, creating logistical challenges to take them out of circulation. Many gun owners are also unwilling to turn in the weapons, and if the government offered to buy them all back at face value, the price tag could easily run into billions of dollars. New Zealand also doesn’t have gun ownership as a constitutional right which makes it less challenging for the government to impose the sanction.
But apart from the problem with the quantity or constitutional right, there are some other realistic reasons that make the idea of buying back weapons in the US a tough one.
The NRA challenge:
Irrespective of the growing anti-gun voice in the US and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors designating it as a domestic terror organization because of its pro-gun stance, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is not withering away any time soon. The body has massive influence in American politics, not just because of the money it spends lobbying but also because it has a humongous engagement (five million members which is roughly the total population of New Zealand). Any effort to curb firearms in the US hits a roadblock from the NRA and the gun rights advocacy group does it at both the state and federal levels. In 2016, NRA spent approximately $30 million to help elect Donald Trump as the president while its annual budget is roughly around $250 million. Even the most powerful of America’s politicians think more than once before taking on the NRA.
The Second Amendment of the Constitution makes it challenging for the anti-gun groups. The left-leaning states have shown more interest in carrying out gun-control measures but overall, the country’s judicial system has emerged as a hurdle. The Supreme Court has said more than once in recent times that right to keep personal weapons is constitutionally assured and conservative judges like Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh - both appointed by President Trump - have maintained a broad view of the Second Amendment. With Trump, who himself has preferred to be pro-gun though in an obscure manner, appointing more pro-gun-rights judges, there is more certainty that anti-gun groups will be facing even an uphill task.
Lack of genuine will
The problem with America’s gun violence is that the anti-gun groups come up with their demands and movements after a tragedy occurs while the pro-gun lobbies maintain their stance consistently. The pro-gun politicians and groups display a temporary sympathy for the victims and their families but wait for the next event to come up fast so that the attention is distracted. It is frustrating but not surprising to see that everything falls back to square one after each horrible shooting incident that kills several. The will of those who matter is simply absent.
The Democrats came to control the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections in 2018 and one would think that this could put the pro-gun Republicans under some challenge. But the way the House congressional districts are laid out, many by state legislatures controlled by the GOP, more seats have the possibility of tilting towards the right. Moreover, gun ownership rate is higher in the rural districts than in urban ones and that means going for sweeping reforms in the gun law in urban areas doesn’t improve the overall scenario. The House of Representatives’ own political dynamics puts up a big challenge to successful gun control in the US.