What’s wrong with the US? The massacre at a Texas elementary school has left many people stunned. The level of gun violence in America is unparalleled. The reasons are varied.

It’s a sad US unique selling point. No other country in the world has more guns and more gun violence. Rampages and shootings are part of everyday life.

And an overpowering gun lobby ensures that nothing changes. Even the disturbing massacre at an elementary school in the small Texas town of Uvalde doesn’t sway conservatives from their love of guns.

18-year-old was not allowed to buy liquor but weapons

The US is a country where families pose for Christmas cards with their private arsenal of guns. You can’t buy alcohol until you’re 21 nationwide, but you can buy firearms at 18 in many states. The Uvalde, Texas, gunman was not yet allowed to buy liquor, but was able to walk into a gun store shortly after his 18th birthday and purchase two assault rifles, which he later used to take 21 lives in elementary school.

While many countries require extensive procedures to obtain a gun – training, licenses, and tons of paperwork – it is very easy to obtain a gun in many states in the USA. In many places it is sufficient to fill out a form directly in the shop. Then, during an “immediate check”, some data is compared with the authorities for a possible criminal background. Hardly anyone fails: the rate is 0.5 percent. At gun fairs, which take place across the country every weekend, the guidelines are even more lax.

There are more guns than citizens in the US

As a result, there are more guns in circulation than anywhere else. According to data from the Small Arms Survey research project, there is no other country with such a high number of guns per capita owned by civilians: there are more firearms than citizens in the USA, 120 pieces per 100 inhabitants. Far behind in second place is the civil war country Yemen with around 52 weapons per 100 inhabitants. The United States has about 4 percent of the world’s population, but according to the data, 40 percent of all civilian-held guns in the world are found in US homes.

That sets grim records elsewhere: According to the latest data from the CDC, around 20,000 people were shot dead in the United States in 2020 – more than 50 a day. For the first time in 2020, gun injuries were the number one killer of children and adolescents in the United States, ahead of traffic accidents.

Last year, the FBI counted 61 gun shootings in the country — about one every six days. These include deadly school shootings. The fact that bulletproof school bags are available in the USA speaks for itself.

With guns against guns

After almost every killing spree, the same reflexes repeat themselves: gun advocates and Republicans recommend equipping teachers, security guards, or citizens with more guns so that they can protect themselves against attacks. Gun opponents and Democrats, on the other hand, are calling for stricter gun laws – for example, a ban on weapons of war such as assault rifles.

What does an ordinary citizen need weapons designed for military conflicts for? Why can an 18-year-old just buy a semi-automatic rifle in a shop – without an in-depth check? Prominent Republicans are dodging these uncomfortable questions in droves these days when they have to declare their opposition to stricter gun laws. Instead, the same phrases are repeated over and over again: Stricter laws don’t solve the problem, they just curtail the basic rights of law-abiding citizens, they argue. It is not the guns themselves that are the problem, but individual owners with mental disorders.

Tuberville: “Firearms are not the problem”

A statement by Republican Tommy Tuberville is exemplary. Reporters asked the Alabama senator what he had to say to the parents who just lost their child in Uvalde. He coolly replied: “I am ready to say that I am very sorry for what happened. But guns aren’t the problem, okay? The people are the problem.” And further: “We have always had weapons. And we will continue to have guns.”

Republican ex-president Donald Trump has always argued in the same way in the past. During campaign appearances, his warning that the Democrats want to take away guns from citizens and curtail the right to own guns is standard repertoire.

Gun ownership in the US Constitution

The right to own guns is enshrined in the US Constitution. Nobody dares touch this second amendment from the 18th century. It was made for a time when the United States consisted largely of undeveloped wilderness and its citizens lived far from built-up areas. Submachine guns and assault rifles didn’t exist then. But the right of every citizen to have a gun has remained. It is sacred to many Americans.

Efforts to introduce stricter gun laws have been in vain for years – mainly because Republicans are opposed to them. And because the gun lobby, above all the National Rifle Association (NRA), vehemently opposes any attempt to regulate gun ownership more closely.

NRA one of the most powerful lobby groups

The NRA is one of the most powerful lobby groups in the United States. The number of members is in the millions. She has enormous influence on politics. The NRA pumps large sums of money into election campaigns and grades members of parliament based on their attitude to weapons issues – as a kind of handout to its members as to who they should and shouldn’t vote for. The NRA has already ended political careers. Some politicians are downright afraid of the organization.

US President Joe Biden said after the Texas massacre: “As a nation, we have to ask ourselves when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby.” There is no majority for it in Congress.

Starting this Friday, the NRA wanted to meet in Texas for its annual meeting. Trump and other prominent Republicans were on the list of speakers in Houston, about 450 kilometers from Uvalde. The killing spree did not cause the NRA to change plans, nor did Trump. The Republican has never made a secret of which side he’s on (“I love the NRA.”). Ironically, at the NRA conference, a gun ban was issued in advance during Trump’s speech – on the instructions of the ex-president’s security guards.