Since Obama was voted in for his second term in office, America has gone through quite a turbulent few months. However, as the celebrations went on, who was to know that only a month later Obama’s second term would begin with such a tragic yet pivotal event for US politics? The tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook elementary school evoked a huge reaction within the media. British journalists along with members of the public expressed their grief and outrage that this was still going on in America. The almost unanimous response of the British was for Americans to put down their guns and put an end to the all too frequent massacres. Surely the response would have been the same in the states? But no, even though many share the view that America had to at least limit its gun ownership, just as many saw it as a reason to increase the level of arms owned. Although Obama is attempting to push through legislation that controls gun ownership, it seems like he is facing an uphill battle. Now the question that needs to be considered is not whether limiting gun ownership is right, as many Americans have already made their mind up on this. What does need questioning is whether it is actually possible to limit gun ownership in the USA.
America and Britain have long shared many similarities in our culture. However one thing that does divide our societies is our politics. Yes, within the UK there will be a few people who agree that more guns are needed to defend American citizens and that armed guards should be put in schools. Some members of the British public may even believe that gun ownership in the UK would be a positive move. However within the UK these views are very much marginalised and have a very small impact upon mainstream politics. However, in America gun advocates are by no means a small minority which thus gives them a strong influence upon the gun control debate. Obama now has a big problem. On one hand there is no way he can’t just turn a blind eye to the masses of Americans who are demanding change and I doubt he wants to either. However, any changes he does make are likely to be met with a backlash from the influential pro-gun campaigners, many of which fund the campaigns of US senators. Therefore Obama has no choice but to walk straight into a battle with these influential campaigners and risk polarising American politics even further.
The main reference point in this argument continuously seems to be the second amendment to the US constitution. “The right to bear arms” as a means of self defence is cited in pretty much every argument to prevent gun control measures. However the fact that many Americans are campaigning so fiercely to keep their guns just as a means of “self defence” against criminals seems to suggest there may be an underlying cultural belief influencing their view. And there is, the fear of the government. This first came to my attention in an old Louis Theroux documentary filmed in the late 90’s. He visited a group in America who were aiming to live outside the control of the US government as they feared a “new world order” was forming to create a world government. At first it just seemed like a small deluded group of conspiracy theorists who were providing great material for this documentary. But what struck me again was Piers Morgan’s interview with a former US marine about the gun issue. The marine stated that the second amendment was put in place to “prevent things from happening that we don’t want with our government.” Morgan’s interview with Alex Day also covered the same issue. Day suggested that guns were American’s defence against the government gaining too much power. Maybe these fears aren’t as extreme as those in the documentary but this underlying fear of being defenceless against the government continues to crop up. It is difficult to suggest why this fear is felt by many Americans, but it is. And this is why Obama will have an endless struggle to impose gun control. The more he increases gun control the more this fear increases. Obama isn’t just fighting hardened political beliefs, but ingrained cultural beliefs as well. It is these beliefs that will the most difficult to overcome.
So whether you agree with gun control or not, the fact that people across the world are aware of statistics such as 900 people gun deaths since Sandy Hook means that Obama inevitably has to act. But as head of Cure Violence, Gary Slutkin pointed out, America needs to “change people’s thinking” towards guns if they wish to solve the issue. The ownership of guns is an ingrained cultural belief within American society.