THE STORY Americans are the most heavily armed people in the world per capita. Depending on whom you ask, this is either ‘great’ or ‘just...great.’ No matter whom you ask, it’s a major election issue. THE WHAT Gun culture is a huge part of American life. And has been since Alexander Hamilton’s friends wrote the 2nd Amendment (hint: right to bear arms). The ‘gimme all the guns’ side says it’s about being able to defend yourself and your family. But the ‘keep those away from me’ side points out that tens of thousands of people are killed by guns each year, and since Americans don’t wear colonial clothes anymore, it’s time to stop making guns so accessible. TELL ME ABOUT THE NRA. Meet the biggest and most influential pro-gun lobby in Washington, DC. The NRA reportedly has millions of members. It heavily funds the campaigns of pro-gun lawmakers, publicly ‘grades’ them on how they voted for gun control bills, and rallies its community to vote for pro-gun measures. GIMME SOME BACKGROUND. Mass shootings happen all the time. But one of the worst in recent memory was Sandy Hook. In 2012, a gunman killed 20 kids and six adults with an assault rifle at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, CT. President Obama tried to get new gun controls through Congress. Think: universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons. But the NRA and its members pressured their lawmaker friends into voting against these reforms. Nothing was passed. WHERE ARE WE NOW? After Sandy Hook, President Obama had to give remarks on at least eight mass shootings. Then Orlando happened. In June, a shooter killed 49 people and injured 53 in an Orlando, FL gay club. It was the worst mass shooting in modern US history. The shooter spent some time on the FBI’s terror watch list, but was taken off when they couldn’t find hard evidence. Even if he had still been on the list, he could have bought a gun. Congress considered banning those on federal terror watch lists from getting guns, and requiring universal background checks. Nothing was passed. WHAT THE GOP SAYS... Guns don't kill people, people kill people. We need more guns in the hands of those who could fight back. Many who carry out mass shootings are mentally ill. Instead of limiting access to guns, let’s shape up the mental health system to give these people support before they get violent. WHAT DEMOCRATS SAY… We don’t want to ban guns altogether. But the Second Amendment was written hundreds of years ago. It doesn’t make sense in today’s world to have military assault weapons on the streets. Let’s ban them. And yes to mental health reform. WHAT THE CANDIDATES SAY… Hillary Clinton…time to take on the NRA to keep guns away from domestic abusers and violent criminals. That means universal background checks and closing loopholes that let the wrong people carry a gun.
Donald Trump...We don’t have a gun problem. We have a mental illness problem. theSKIMM The Newtown and Orlando massacres didn’t change politics in DC – but they did change the way the US thinks about gun reform. Now, most people want expanded background checks and a ban on assault weapons. TBD on whether Congress – and the next president – can work out a compromise.