Along with expressing his condolences for the school shooting on Feb. 14 that occurred in Parkland, FL, President Donald Trump also stated that he was open to the idea of improving background checks for people buying guns. The pressure on the government to act on the ongoing issue of gun violence in the wake of yet another school shooting is heightening. Rallies and protests are being held, fighting against the current system and to prevent Parkland’s massacre from becoming a lost statistic in nationwide mass shootings.
The golden opportunity to bring about change is here for the government. However, it’s doubtful they will seize the chance, given the ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA) Trump built part of his campaign on, his hypocritical stance on emphasizing mental health and the lack of action that Trump took on gun reforms during his presidency so far.
During his presidential campaign, Trump asserted that his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton planned to repeal the Second Amendment, while he had no intention of doing so, an argument that brought forth the support of several like-minded conservatives and the NRA. Additionally, the NRA donated at least $10.6 million to fund Trump’s campaign, exchanging their money for the legal protection they’d receive under a Republican majority in office. Trump has endorsed the NRA, claiming in 2017 that “the NRA has been a great supporter. They love our country.” Deviating from his standpoint with guns will risk upsetting some of his followers that voted for him partly because of his beliefs pertaining to firearms.
Almost exactly a year ago, Trump rolled back an Obama-era regulation that was specifically implemented to make it harder for people with mental illnesses to access guns. Unlike typical bill signings, there was no press swarming the Oval Office, because the signing was private and the White House refused to release photos of the bill being signed. Though there’s no way of proving that tragedies like the Las Vegas and Parkland shootings could have been prevented with Obama’s gun bill, Trump’s decision to remove this law further allowed for people with mental states similar to the mass shooters’ to get easy access to firearms.
Trump is so insistent on the belief that this recent shooting was centered around “the difficult issue of mental health,” as he stated in his remarks following the tragedy. However, if he wants so badly to stop mentally unfit people from posing as a danger to other people, then why did he quietly sign a bill enabling them to get access to firearms? If Dana Loesch, NRA spokeswoman, told a Parkland survivor that the solution she wants to fight for is to “stop mentally unstable individuals from getting firearms,” then why does the organization she represents continue to donate money to President Trump? It’s plausible to say that as long as Trump continues to receive funds from the NRA and other organizations that are pro-Second Amendment, he can continue to speak empty promises, whether it be about fighting mental illness, which he’s shown no sign of supporting, and tighter gun regulations, which he signed a bill against.
Even if Trump chooses to stray from his core campaign promises, the US has a long way to go in terms of enacting laws to prevent future shootings. Exactly a week after the shooting, the state Capitol of Florida voted down a bill proposing the banning of assault weapons similar to the one used in the Parkland shooting. In addition, currently there are two proposed bills being stalled in Congress right now, that have been on the table for several months now. One concerns banning bump stocks, a tool that makes it easier to fire rounds more quickly, and was introduced in October of 2017 after the Vegas shooting. The other bill is predicted to succeed over the attempt to ban bump stocks; this one would increase enforcement to report criminal records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
However, the chances of one of two bills passing is still doubtful. Consider that, since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, over 100 gun control bills have been proposed on Capitol Hill, and nearly all of them have failed to pass. Some of the only bills that did included an extension on banning plastic guns that can easily slip past metal detectors, and stricter regulations for US veterans with mental illnesses. However, it is clear to see that these steps being taken are far too small, and despite slim chances of change given a Republican majority in congress, the admirable push by citizens for more drastic changes must continue.
The government has failed to listen to the rallying cries of their citizens pushing for gun control and it’s little coincidence that there have been 290 school shootings since Sandy Hook. The people of America are continuing to apply pressure on the government, but will the government step up and take responsibility? The words of David Hogg, a Parkland shooting survivor, provide a blueprint for what it will take: “Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.”