One trait associated with the United States around the world is an almost indestructible optimism. The American dream that anything is possible if you work hard for it. For this, many people love America and dream of living there.
US President Joe Biden is a representative of this philosophy: he has set out to lead the country out of its massive crises, to heal it and to bring the deeply divided society together.
But with the horrific massacre at an elementary school in Texas, a political area is now coming into focus again, which shows more impressively than almost any other how little the most important resident of the White House can decide in the end: the question of how the possession of weapons should be regulated.
After the shots with which an 18-year-old killed 19 children and two adults in Uvalde, grief quickly gave way to anger. About the fact that nothing was done to prevent such a catastrophe. And that nothing will change in the future.
Biden himself symbolizes this dilemma: the Democrat has been campaigning for stricter gun laws for decades. Barack Obama, as his then-vice president, made him his envoy on the issue after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School ten years ago.
But the bottom line is the balance of Biden’s commitment: Nothing has gotten better. On the contrary. More and more Americans are getting guns, and more and more women, too, who feel threatened. And the death toll from gun violence is rising to new record highs.
There is no question that the main responsibility for this lies with the Republicans and the closely associated NRA gun lobby, who are gathering for their annual meeting in Texas this Friday – just a few hours’ drive from Uvalde. Speakers will include Donald Trump and Governor Greg Abbott. Abbott once set a goal for Texas to be the state where most guns were bought.
The brothers-in-arms keep fighting tougher laws out of fear that their constitutional right to own guns might be curtailed. Guns have always been part of America’s culture and it must remain so, they argue, because everyone must have the ability to defend themselves in a dangerous world.
The founding fathers hardly had semi-automatic assault rifles in the hands of 18-year-olds in mind when they wrote the constitution.
But activists like Cameron Kasky, one of the survivors of the 2018 Parkland, Fla., high school shooting, also oppose the inaction of the ruling Democrats. After Biden’s emotional speeches on Tuesday evening, he criticized that although the president was concerned, he had not heard what Biden was actually planning to do. If Biden cannot convince Congress of the need for stricter laws, Kasky said on CNN, then he would have to act by government decree.
Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who wants to replace Abbott in November, also expressed anger on Wednesday. At a press conference, where Abbott identified mental health problems as the cause of the Uvalde massacre, O’Rourke interrupted the governor and angrily accused him of inaction in the face of gun violence.
However, many see the angry performance, which right-wing circles castigated as inadmissible political instrumentalization, as a long-overdue impetus to shake off the lethargy. According to polls, the overwhelming majority of Americans want stricter gun laws. Translating this into political mobilization and ultimately into better laws is a dream for many – and it is the task of politics.