When in God’s name will this stop? That’s what President Joe Biden asks in a desperate voice in an address to the nation.
When in God’s name will this stop? That’s what the parents, grandparents, siblings and friends of the victims of the school massacre in the small Texas town of Uvalde ask with tear-choked voices.
With shock and outrage, millions of Americans, but also millions of Germans, are asking the same question: When in God’s name will this stop? Or to put it another way: Why aren’t the politicians in the USA able to put an end to these horrific shootings?
Why are gun laws not tightened? Why aren’t there nationwide educational programs against the gun cult, comparable to campaigns against racism? Why are nationwide protests by several hundred thousand students, for example in 2018 after the school massacre in Parkland, Florida, not having a lasting effect?
No satisfying answer will come from heaven, except relief from the anguish of soul for those who are comforted by faith. The problem is man-made. If it succeeds at all, it will have to be solved by people.
Desperation, pain and grief dictate that something must finally happen lest it repeat itself over and over and over again. At the same time, it is unfortunately to be expected that little will change after the massacre of children in Uvalde – as after similar school massacres in the past.
For example, in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 20 first graders and six caregivers died there. Then-President Barack Obama tearfully asked the same questions: When and how will the US find a way out of these tragedies? At the same time, he and his former deputy, Joe Biden, who was supposed to take care of stricter laws, suspected that they would not succeed during their joint term of office.
There are no magic formulas for this. And for a variety of reasons, little will change very quickly, today just as little as then. In the roughly 230 years since 1791, when the then new US Constitution was supplemented by the “second amendment” – the right of citizens to bear arms – a variety of causes have come together in a tangle that is difficult to unravel.
There are now more guns in the United States than residents. The number of citizens who have guns and comply with regulations and laws is greater than the number of those who misuse guns. They resist any restrictions on their freedoms.
And there is a well-organized gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA). After each new tragedy that increases the pressure on politics, she finds and spreads arguments why this or that measure would not have helped at all in the case at hand. Or would be disproportionate.
According to the information available so far, the perpetrator of Uvalde acquired his weapons legally. The NRA will say that the conditions, such as the “background checks”, have been complied with. It is not the fault of the general system, nor of the freedom to carry weapons. There is no need for a national gun register, as is often demanded. Because the origin of the murder weapon could be traced quickly and easily.
The US debate will probably again come to the conclusion that a mentally ill or mentally confused lone perpetrator acted. And how are we going to tackle this cause, the gun lobby will hypocritically ask. Maybe with a national register of mentally unstable citizens?
It is to despair. The situation is intolerable, but there is no remedy in sight. And the usual political finger pointing, for example at obstinate Republicans who oppose the legitimate demands of the Democrats, does not help either. The lines of conflict are actually more complicated.
The pros and cons in the struggle for stricter gun laws is also a question of right and left. Culturally, however, it is much more a question of city and country. Republicans in crime-ridden cities like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles are open to tightening up.
On the other hand, democrats from rural regions, where hunting and sporting weapons are part of the traditional way of life, are very reluctant to respond to such demands. A prime example of this is Bernie Sanders, otherwise a figurehead of the left. The senator and multiple presidential candidate comes from Vermont. Many citizens there have guns at home.
Sanders has not generally voted for tightening gun laws. During the 2020 presidential campaign, he claimed it was a mistake and that he changed his position. Let’s see if he backs that up with action after the Uvalde massacre.