I'm specifically referring to things like closing the gun show loophole and limiting access of those with mental illness to guns.

It seems absurd that those representing guns, a consumer product, could be so influential in this country. Imagine if 1/1,000,000 refrigerators blew up and killed everyone in the house, but we couldn't pass safety restrictions on them, because the refrigerator lobby is too powerful. Why is the gun lobby so powerful in this country?

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    Define the concept you refer to as the gun show loophole. Justify the presupposition that the gun lobby is a representation of the firearms industry, while ignoring the concept that individual citizens want the government to respect their Self Defense rights as codified by the Constitution. Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 19:35
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    Because of the NRA...one of the most successful industry lobbying groups out there.
    – user1530
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 19:51
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    @blip That mischaracterizes the NRA: are their industrial lobbying interests involved? Yes. Is that the sum total of the NRA? No. The vast majority of contributions to the NRA and responses for is the portion of the populace demanding respect for their self defense rights. Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 21:42
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    @DrunkCynic that's pretty much how the NRA has characterized itself over the past decade. You could argue maybe that's not the NRA's original intent, but that's absolutely Wayne LaPierre's intent.
    – user1530
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 23:40
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    @EnglishStudent Your reasoning is sound, but the conclusion is flawed. Those opposing gun control carry guns with an interest in protecting students from crazy assassins. The way you put it would imply pro-gun crowd doesn't care about the lives of children. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 17:36

10 Answers 10


At the basic premise, sensible gun control legislation isn't going to last because one side is more invested than the other. Those supporting the right to keep and bear arms, and the associated protections enshrined in the Second Amendment, see efforts that would restrict their ability to freely exercise their rights as an attack on the same. The opposition, motivated by emotions and sad thoughts, lack permanence. The side feeling aggressed will mount a stronger defense.

Second Amendment

The foundation of the argument for those supporting the individual right to keep and bear arms is the protection of the same enshrined in the Second Amendment. The text is quite clear, and attempts to create confusion or massage it into a restriction are efforts of obfuscation.:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Disaggregated into the individual clauses, translated into plain language into how they would have been understood at ratification:
A well regulated : in proper working order, being proficient
Militia : all able-bodied men who are not members of the Uniformed Services.
being necessary to the security of a free State : a nondespotically governed country
the right of the people : Individual Right
keep and bear Arms : the ability to have and carry arms.
shall not be infringed : The Federal and State Governments do not have the authority to violate the individual right to Keep and Bear Arms

Historic Context

What was the meaning of the Second Amendment as understood by its contemporaries? Was the aim about keeping weapons in your home while not having to be part of the response service (NG, Army)?

From a sister stack exchange, History.se, we have the following:

The historical context shows that it intends that everyone be armed, both for the defense of the state and for their own personal use; that the "militia" is intended to consist of all capable adults; that broad membership and independence from a centralized army is the very thing that makes it "well-regulated"; that people were afraid of the federal government raising an army that out-gunned the general populace; that an armed populace was considered a bulwark for other individual rights, to the point of being used as a defense against the government if it should ever take a turn to the tyrannical; and that the right to be armed was widely considered a natural right on a par with free speech, a free press, etc. A few quotes from contemporary writings:

Congress shall never disarm any Citizen unless such as are or have been in Actual Rebellion.

The Constitutional convention of New Hampshire, in their proposed amendments to the Constitution.

That the people have the right to bear arms for the defence of the State; and, as standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under the strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

North Carolina Constitution of 1776 (Section 30 in the linked version, except the last sentence there wasn't present in 1776). Similar language is also found in the minutes of the constitutional ratifying conventions of Virginia and New York.

And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms

— Samuel Adams, in the Constitutional convention of Massachusetts.

There are other things so clearly out of the power of Congress, that the bare recital of them is sufficient. I mean "the rights of conscience, of religious liberty — the rights of bearing arms for defence, or for killing game — the liberty of fowling, hunting, and fishing..." These things seem to have been inserted among their objections, merely to induce the ignorant to believe that Congress would have a power over such objects, and to infer from their being refused a place in the Constitution, their intention to exercise that power to the oppression of the people.

— Alexander White, in a response to a minority (anti-federalist) opinion of the constitutional convention of Pennsylvania. The minority opinion said that the Constitution was insufficient because it didn't protect individual rights well enough (i.e. they wanted a Bill of Rights baked into the Constitution). White says that such protection is unnecessary because it's blindingly obvious that the federal government has no right or power to curb those rights, even without their being listed specifically in the Constitution.

If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government

— Alexander Hamilton, Federalist no. 28

If circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.

— Alexander Hamilton, Federalist no. 29

What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty [...] Whenever governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins.

— Elbridge Gerry, House of Representatives debate on the adoption of the Bill of Rights. (He later became the original Gerrymanderer.)

More Quotes:

"A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined..." - George Washington, First Annual Address, to both House of Congress, January 8, 1790

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." - Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Constitution, Draft 1, 1776

"I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, January 30, 1787

"What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787

"The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." - Thomas Jefferson, Commonplace Book (quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria), 1774-1776

"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 19, 1785

"The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to to John Cartwright, 5 June 1824

"On every occasion [of Constitutional interpretation] let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying [to force] what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, [instead let us] conform to the probable one in which it was passed." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, 12 June 1823

"I enclose you a list of the killed, wounded, and captives of the enemy from the commencement of hostilities at Lexington in April, 1775, until November, 1777, since which there has been no event of any consequence ... I think that upon the whole it has been about one half the number lost by them, in some instances more, but in others less. This difference is ascribed to our superiority in taking aim when we fire; every soldier in our army having been intimate with his gun from his infancy." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Giovanni Fabbroni, June 8, 1778

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

"To disarm the people...[i]s the most effectual way to enslave them." - George Mason, referencing advice given to the British Parliament by Pennsylvania governor Sir William Keith, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adooption of the Federal Constitution, June 14, 1788

"I ask who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers." - George Mason, Address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 4, 1788

"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every country in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops." - Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, October 10, 1787

"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of." - James Madison, Federalist No. 46, January 29, 1788

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country." - James Madison, I Annals of Congress 434, June 8, 1789

"...the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone..." - James Madison, Federalist No. 46, January 29, 1788

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves." - William Pitt (the Younger), Speech in the House of Commons, November 18, 1783

“A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves…and include, according to the past and general usuage of the states, all men capable of bearing arms… "To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them." - Richard Henry Lee, Federal Farmer No. 18, January 25, 1788

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined.... The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun." - Patrick Henry, Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1778

"This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty.... The right of self defense is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction." - St. George Tucker, Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1803

"The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms, like law, discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The balance ofpower is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside. And while a single nation refuses to lay them down, it is proper that all should keep them up. Horrid mischief would ensue were one-half the world deprived of the use of them; for while avarice and ambition have a place in the heart of man, the weak will become a prey to the strong. The history of every age and nation establishes these truths, and facts need but little arguments when they prove themselves." - Thomas Paine, "Thoughts on Defensive War" in Pennsylvania Magazine, July 1775

"The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms." - Samuel Adams, Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, 1788 "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them." - Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 1833

"What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty .... Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins." - Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, I Annals of Congress 750, August 17, 1789

"For it is a truth, which the experience of ages has attested, that the people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion." - Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 25, December 21, 1787

"If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a single state, if the persons intrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair." - Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 28

"[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist." - Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 28, January 10, 1788

"As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms." - Tench Coxe, Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789

"A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer's hand." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

"I will teach my children weapons and warfare, so they might teach their children science and law, so they might teach their children art and literature." - Unknown Greek

"Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it." - Pericles

"The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools." - Thucydides

"Though defensive violence will always be 'a sad necessity' in the eyes of men of principle, it would be still more unfortunate if wrongdoers should dominate just men." - St. Augustine

"From his weapons on the open road no man should step one pace away; you don't know for certain when you're out on the road when you might have need of your spear - Havamal (a viking age collection of common sense)

Gun Show Loophole

The concept of a gun show loophole is a work of rhetorical fiction. If a licensed dealer performs a sale at a gun show, they are required by the Brady Bill to perform a Background check. Further, they aren't authorized to sell handguns to individuals that reside outside of the state their license allows them to do business in.

All those other sales are simply private transactions between individuals. There isn't Federal legislative, regulatory, or Constitutional authority to interfere in these dealings. Some control has been inserted at the state level, in the Constitutionally unfriendly states like California and Illinois. Short of a firm registry of every gun to an owner, these laws aren't enforceable. Herein lies the strongest dilemma; every historic incident of a registry of arms has led to confiscation.

Mental Illness

Federal laws exist already to prevent those proven to be mentally ill, and found mentally incompetent, from gaining direct access to firearms. The complication is that several states aren't feeding into the NCIS database, following significant HIPAA concerns. Additionally, it takes a significant amount of work to properly find individuals mentally incompetent.


The NRA does not represent the firearms industry; this is an example of rhetorical misdirection. Their interests are parallels, but at its heart the NRA is a lobbying arm for the populace of these United States. Their sizable rosters and ability to mobilize individuals that have a personal investment in maintaining the rights protected by the Second Amendment, remind political representatives of their oaths to support and defend the Constitution. The members of the NRA care more about protecting their rights than the members of the anti-gun movement care to attack them.

Existing Biases

Each side is firmly entrenched in a controversial issue that has become increasingly controversial. Those supporting the right to keep and bear arms are exceedingly skeptical of any movement or issue raised by their opposition, citing historical examples. The strongest opposition lobby, seen as an enemy to those rights, is the Brady Campaign; they've built a strong, and consistent message focusing on minimizing gun violence and gun deaths, so "people really care."

The Brady Campaign characterizes gun violence as a "disease on our nation, where guns and bullets are the pathogens." Through careful messaging, they build the narrative to evoke strong emotional responses. Mistakenly, they've baked in outdated statistics, such as the 40% depiction of sales are private, though they paint all of those sales as dirty and with criminal intent. The emotional strikes are further weighted with tragic personal stories, adding weight to their lose adherence to facts. The milestones they set for addressing the gun violence problem are: Universal Background Checks, policing gun dealers, and adding Technology to firearms. Each of these creates a fundamental rejection from the proponents of personal firearms.

A system of Universal Background Checks, especially as implemented in California and Washington, places an undue financial burden on individuals seeking to sell their private property. Additionally, the law is entirely unenforceable in the majority of states, excluding California. That is because, unless a firearm can be connected to the individual that purchased it, there isn't a method to enforce the background check requirement. It would take an national firearm registration in order to enforce the requirement, a mechanism that is specifically banned by the Firearm Owners Protection Act. The reason: historically, registration of firearms has preceded confiscation (Germany, Australia, UK).

Federal Firearm Licensees are substantially regulated. There is a specific Government Agency responsible for such, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Is it perfect? No. There are proven stores that have done illegal things, though the same could be said for every sector of the economy. The delay in strengthening the enforcement can be sourced back to an inherent distrust of the Government, backed by proven exercises of the Government exceeding its authority. Recently, the Firearms Industry's ability to operate as a business was threatened by Operation Choke Point, that caused banks to force the closing of business accounts for Firearms Dealers.

Then there is the push for Smart Guns, systems that use either biometrics or RFIDs to limit the actuation of the firearm to one person. The fast majority opposes complicating the firearm with an electronic system capable of interrupting the operation of the firearm. It is being pushed as a system that will prevent an unauthorized person from using the firearm; the responding fear is that the firearm will fail when it is needed to protect your life.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 19:44

limiting access of those with mental illness to guns.

There is a worry that mental illness restrictions will be abused. For example, New York state has the SAFE Act, which is intended to catch people who are dangers to themselves or others. But in one example, the wrong person was put on the list. Apparently there were two people with similar names.

The net result is that pro-gun people are now distrustful of the anti-gun lobby. They want stronger due process protections in any new federal legislation. Meanwhile, the anti-gun people are worried that due process protection will slow down state legislation covering the same area. So neither side can agree on wording involved in regulating something that both agree is a problem.

Imagine if 1/1,000,000 refrigerators blew up and killed everyone in the house, but we couldn't pass safety restrictions on them, because the refrigerator lobby is too powerful.

But that's not a good analogy. First, it's not the gun that malfunctions and kills people; it's the user that is malfunctioning. The gun is working as intended. Second, in that analogy, you are protecting refrigerator buyers from accidental damage from their refrigerators.

Another analogy would be to cars. Until recently, car accidents killed more people than guns did. Yet how many people have you heard call for the banning of cars to prevent accidents? And there probably is a one in a million chance that a car will suffer a defect during normal operation that will kill one or more people and not be the fault of the user. That's much more similar to your refrigerator analogy than to guns.

A better analogy to the difficulty passing new gun laws would be to abortion laws. There was a problem with an abortionist who had a patient die from a bad reaction to anesthesia. There were a number of contributing factors. For example, the ambulance personnel could not lower the wheels of the gurney to wheel it out because the hallway was too narrow. Then they had to fit the stretcher through a narrow stairwell and get through a locked door. The resulting delay may have contributed to the patient's death. So there is a push to add regulations to abortion centers to make problems less likely.

Note that the CDC showed something like 1 in 65,000 abortions ending in the death of the patient in 2008. Most years have fewer deaths than that ("The national legal induced abortion case-fatality rate for 2004–2008 was 0.64 legal induced abortion-related deaths per 100,000 reported legal abortions"), but still more often than one in a million. There are fewer than a million abortions a year.

There are disputes over which regulations are really necessary and which are unnecessary. The pro-choice (pro-abortion) people do not trust the pro-life (anti-abortion) people. So they accuse them of passing meaningless regulations just to make things harder on abortion clinics. A case (Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt) is currently wending its way through the courts now.

There too proponents of the laws describe them as simple common sense while opponents see them as fundamentally undermining personal rights.

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    And thereby proving my point. You don't trust the people who call for abortion restrictions and think they are lying about their motives. Just as gun rights proponents don't trust you on gun restrictions and think that you are lying about your motives. And that's the fundamental problem: you have zero empathy for the other side's position. As long as that continues, compromise is impossible.
    – Brythan
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 19:05
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    Ugh, I'm neither pro- nor anti-gun, but can the pro gun people please stop saying "that's a bad analogy" and then use the car analogy? The car analogy is just as bad, a car's main purpose isn't to inflict damage on other people. I can follow many of the pro-gun side's argument, but it's damn hard to take the good arguments serious with the blatant hypocrisy mixed in so casually.
    – DonFusili
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 11:15
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    @blip "No one is pro abortion" - actually, some people concerned with overpopulation might be. I wouldn't make such a generalisation. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 12:06
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    I wish more people would use the car analogy. To own a car, you need a license. You have to take a test, and you have to renew that license. You need to register your car on a regular basis. You need to get your car inspected. The vehicles themselves are tracked in a database so that if you hit someone, the police have something to track you down. None of these things are currently true about guns.
    – Tal
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 14:08

I would like to offer a different answer. It really has little to do with lobbying, and very much to do with the way the US government was set up to protect geographic differences between states, so that states with large populations couldn't use a simple majority vote to overwhelm the smaller ones.

The claim is that a majority of the US population supports further gun control measures. Even if that is true (I take no position), a simple nationwide majority is misleading. It is pretty clear that opinion varies considerably with location: the residents of say Alaska & Montana hold different opinions on many issues, including gun control, than do those of Massachusetts & New York. Here's a link to a map showing the attitude towards further gun control, by congressional district: https://www.isidewith.com/map/2Y5/support-for-gun-control#z5

Gun control opinions by Congressional district

(Screenshot included for those with slow connections. The map on the site is interactive, with a mouseover that shows yes/no percentages for each district.)

It shows that support is strong in a few large urban areas, moderate in much of the east and coastal California, while the more rural remainder of the country has majorities in opposition.

So we have a large fraction of Congressional districts with majorities opposed to gun control: are the Representatives from those districts going to risk the wrath of the voters? The effect is even stronger in the Senate, where each state gets two votes: Senators from anti-control states are likely to listen to their constituents, and there are more states where the majority of voters oppose gun control.

So it's not the evil gun manufacturers funding NRA lobbying that's responsible for the lack of successful gun control legislation. It's just geography: the NRA is successful not because it's inherently powerful, but because large numbers of people, and majorities in large geographic areas, are in general agreement with its positions. Legislators are simply listening to what a majority of their constituents want.

  • You have impartially addressed both sides of the argument and presented a strong reason why it is difficult to pass sweeping gun control laws even if the numerical majority is in favor of such reforms. This is the most sensible assessment of this matter IMHO and I am pleased to award you the bounty. Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 9:08
  • @English Student: Thanks. The link works for me. I'll see if I can figure out how to imbed images (the developers of this site having apparently invented their own non-standard markup language :-(), but if you can access the link, it has an interactive feature where you can mouse over each district and see yes/no percentages.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 19:06
  • The link is just too slow to load on my connection, I think. Now I can see the eastern 2/5 of USA only, with the colored representation of gun control support. It would be much better (and very explanatory) to see the image automatically in your answer @jamesqf. One way to do it is to screen capture the entire image and upload that file from your device. It should be OK because you are attributing the original website in your answer and providing the link. Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 19:22
  • The interactive details on that map at the website are most informative. I have proposed an edit adding the screenshot of the map @jamesqf. Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 19:42
  • I had considered flagging this question as off-topic because it seemed too opinon-based to be answerable. But you, sir, have objectively and quite succinctly done just that. Well done! I'm glad to have been proven wrong in this case. +1
    – Wes Sayeed
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 23:28

It seems absurd that those representing guns, a consumer product, could be so influential in this country.

Not really. We have many industries in the US that have long had large sway with congress:

This is nothing new. The gun lobby simply has a really good lobbying group (The NRA).

There's also the cultural aspect. We're a nation that pretty much was founded with guns...be it with the revolutionary war, our march westward driving off the native americans, the civil war, etc. We really like guns. That, alone, doesn't have a direct bearing on sensible legislation, but there are a lot of people in this country that enjoy guns for very legitimate reasons (hunting, sport shooting, collecting, etc). As such, broad sweeping legislation to actively remove a large amount of recreational weapons is likely to never even be introduced simply because it'd be so unpopular with the constituency.

  • Isn't the civil war rather an example of trouble coming from people owning guns ?
    – Evargalo
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 12:45
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    @Evargalo: No. Quite apart from the actual issues involved, the guns (and other weapons & materiel) were provided by governments.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 18:06

The simple explanation is that support among the voters doesn't exist.

This isn't a matter of right or wrong, it is political reality. If the majority of citizens in the US support the current firearms regulations, they will remain the same. That appears to be the case.

It is all too easy and incorrect to blame this on evil corporations.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 19:43

An exceptionally detailed answer here answers a question I was going to ask now on Politics.SE: if Australia could do it, then why not the USA?

In the world's leading democracy, it can only be because the people of America acting through their elected representatives cannot come to the unanimous consensus that sweeping legislative reforms aimed at clearing constitutional objections (read Second Amendment) and introducing strict gun control laws are urgently necessary to save prospective victims of gunshot homicide and prevent college, workplace and school shootings.

I have both general and personal cause for concern since 3 of my own first cousins are studying in American schools and many more second cousins are attending US universities. But my concern is not for my cousins alone. So many students are living in fear because whatever be the statistical risk of getting killed, school shootings are a regularly recurring reality of American life, and this is not like a road traffic accident but someone shooting to kill you, which has a psychologically disastrous impact on the individual, especially a very young person.

Since USA takes the constitutional right to carry firearms so seriously that this prevents the development of broad legislative unanimity required to overturn a constititional amendment and pass sweeping comprehensive nation-wide gun control laws, we should logically conclude that Americans as a policy-making group entity consider the right to carry guns more important than the need to protect students from crazy shooting assassins.

The lack of unanimity in America on gun control says that loud and clear. Looking at it as an outsider (Indian living in India) that lack of unanimity gives us the consensus statement that school, college and workplace shootings are to be seen as an integral if unintended side-effect of the Second Amendment: just some unavoidable casualties of the Great War of Self-defense. In military terms this is called "collateral damage", methinks.

How it could be done, if Americans unanimously wanted to ban guns:

Step 1: cancel or amend the Second Amendment. A member has already asked and got this answer (relevant extract):

This has actually already happened. The 18th amendment established Prohibition. After a short time the 18th amendment was repealed by the 21st amendment. So it is entirely possible to create a new amendment that says:

The second amendment is hereby repealed and replaced with .....

The process for this is defined by Article V of the constitution (...)

In simple terms if 2/3rds of the Senate and Congress (or 2/3rds of the states) agree then they can propose an amendment. That amendment would then have to be ratified by 75% of the state legislatures. Then the proposal becomes an amendment to the US Constitution.

See the full answer at https://politics.stackexchange.com/a/24029/16169

Step 2: pass sweeping gun control laws federally and simultaneously in every state (requires political will and co-operation between rivals) as Australia did 20 years before.

Step 3: set up a large scale scientific study to assess the impact of such legislation over the first year, then 5 years and 20 years.

Please note this is not a debate about the need or efficacy of gun control laws but a question on why USA is unable to do it despite urgent calls from various sections of the people: lack of consensus is the answer. Kindly avoid comments debating how sweeping gun control would or would not protect students from crazy assassins.

Note 2: In reply to a comment from a learned member, may I point out that there are not only no school shootings in India (which has strict gun control laws), but also no mass rampage killings with kitchen knives, which are not banned here. USA needs to look seriously at sweeping gun control laws mainly because sweeping gun control reforms in Australia 20 years ago almost stopped mass shootings in that nation, according to the article linked above. Wikipedia lists only 15 mass killings in Australia since 01/01/2001. The methods used include arson (4), stabbings, and blunt instruments: only 3 incidents involving firearms. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_in_Australia This number is indeed very small compared to the number of mass killings in USA in the same period, most of which have been gunshot homicides. This comparison strongly suggests that Australia's timely legislation effectively prevented mass shootings from becoming a national disease as in USA, even if it did not affect other types of mass killing. So the United States should look seriously towards enacting similar legislation, even with a provision to revert if the new laws do not achieve the intended results.

Note 3: I will be editing and expanding this basic answer with many more points as soon as I get the time to assemble a lot of comprehensive references.

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    How would a gun law prevent a crazy assassin from killing a student with a kitchen knife? Does a failure to ban kitchen knives indicate that Indians believe that the right to cook is more important than the need to protect students from crazy assassins? Or there were a number of students killed in a bus accident in Canada recently. Should Canada ban buses? More children in the US are killed by traffic accidents than crazy shooting assassins. That's true even in this year, when there was actually a crazy shooter in a school.
    – Brythan
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 10:34
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    Please note this is not a debate about the need for gun control laws but a question on why USA is unable to do it. Lack of consensus is the answer. There are not only no school shootings in India which has strict gun control laws, but also no rampage killing with kitchen knives, unless you can enlighten me @Brythan. Please see my last paragraph: I will be editing and expanding this basic answer with many more points as soon as I get the time to assemble a lot of comprehensive references. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 10:38
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    @Brythan the 'whatboutism' arguments against gun legislation are...to put it bluntly...ridiculous (and tiring, for that matter).
    – user1530
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 13:21
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    Your statistics about Australia are flawed. The gun violence rate was already declining prior to the ban, and continued to decline at near the same rate after the ban. Comparatively, the presence of firearms in the US has multiplied, with a similar decline in gun violence rates. However, other Australian crime statistics didn't see a marked decline: Manslaughter, sexual assault, kidnapping, armed robbery, and unarmed robbery all saw peaks in the years following the ban, and most remain near or above pre-ban rate Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 17:29
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    @blip No less tiring than the ceaseless efforts to bypass the only valid route to gun control(in the USA at least), a constitutional amendment. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 18:12

There are a few good answers here but there is one point I am not seeing.

The only way gun control works is if all guns are confiscated and no one is allowed to possess any.

In order for gun control to prevent gun crimes is to make owning a weapon completely forbidden. If there are weapons available they will fall into the hands of people wanting to do harm to others, that is just an unfortunate fact of reality.

There is a subset of people that keep weapons not as an item of self defense, or tool for hunting, but as a measure to prevent our government from overstepping its bounds. If those people are disarmed there is nothing to stand between a tyrant and a level of power capable of destroying the world. While I admit it is quite arguable that an armed civilian uprising in the US is not likely to be able to repel a concerted effort by those powers to take over the US, there are those people who would stand against them anyway, and they will not surrender their rights to bear arms.

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    This is simply false given legislation in other parts of the world. It also erroneously mistakes 'regulation' for 'confiscation'
    – user1530
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 18:19
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    Name one place where gun control works that did not equate to confiscation Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 21:49
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    @blip that is the point of my answer. It will only work if it become confiscation. So anything less is ineffective at best and dangerous for law abiding people in reality. For that reason those of us who believe in the 2nd amendment hold the line at no gun control. The question is why is it not being passed. Because we recognize the reality of the situation and hold fast to our position. Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 13:36
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    and my point is that one can believe in the second amendment and sensible gun regulations...just as many countries have done. But, yes, I do get that one side is very stubborn about this :)
    – user1530
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 13:48
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    The government often has to adhere to stricter rules. For example, there's no concealed carry on military bases
    – user1530
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 17:42

We actually have an organization which used to expose faulty consumer products and which operated in a manner similar to the NRA. It was Consumer Reports. They have become less consequential lately because more consumers do their own research on Google.

The model of such organizations is that they both collect money and perform a service for that money. The service which they provide is informing those who pay them which consumer product/politicians best suit their needs.

For all the talk of NRA lobbying, only a quarter to a third of their budget comes from grants. As much as half of their budget comes from membership dues (it's between 40% and 55% depending on a year). By far, their biggest power is from informing their members which politicians are "good on guns issues" and which are "bad on guns issues".

A psychological profile of a legal gun owner is that of someone willing to invest time and effort into training and someone conscious enough of threats that they are willing to buy a firearm to protect themselves against a very unlikely happenstance of needing one. Such a person is very likely to become a one-issue voter if he feels his right to protect themselves is being threatened.

Consider what happens if an organization which some person X trusts to inform him on which politician threatens his guns tells him that Senator Y is against guns. X has already spent time, effort and money to become a legal firearm owner. He now feels that Y is attacking him personally. He will vote against Y even if he wasn't planning to vote before. So Y not only loses X as a potential voter. Y's opponent gains X as a confirmed voter for a few election cycles.

This is not too different from a consumer product disregarding a safety concern outlined by Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports will inform their paying readers about it and those readers will buy competing products for a number of years.

Strict-gun-rights politicians talk about "getting the ire" of the NRA. But it's not the lobbying money that they are really afraid of. There is enough of other lobbying interests to take money from. NRA's ability to energize one-issue voters is what makes it impossible for pro-gun-restrictions politicians to stay in power in sparsely-populated states.

  • Solid and convincing assessment, thanks a lot @grovkin! "NRA's ability to energize one-issue voters is what makes it impossible for pro-gun-restrictions politicians to stay in power in sparsely-populated states" __ doesn't that imply both that a very large number of citizens are in favor of keeping guns, so many that a candidate can lose an election if they vote against; and that there is a genuine need for personal and social self-defence in the form of firearms in many parts of USA? If that's true then it would be a very good reason not to introduce sweeping gun control legislation. Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 8:30
  • @EnglishStudent, in sparsely populated states most people's fist line of defense against a home invasion is their own firearm. A police would not get to their house for at least 10 minutes. In densely populated areas, a policemen is never more than a mile away. But because news are national, people tend to want national gun policy to resemble that which fits their local needs regardless of whether they are pro-restriction or pro-ownership.
    – grovkin
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 18:48
  • Very true @grovkin. Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 19:23
  • @English Student: It's not simply a matter of self-defense - against other humans, anyway. (Sparse population means fewer personal & property crimes - I haven't locked the doors of my house for years.) For instance, many of my female horse-riding friends carry pistols when out on the trail, in case of bears & mountain lions (though I think bear spray is more effective), or if a horse breaks a leg, they hit a deer while driving, &c. And a good many people do hunt for meat. The rural US is in many ways far removed from the experience (or the myths) of most (sub)urbanites.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 19:16
  • @grovkin Your premise of increased response time of law enforcement in densely populated areas, and thus serving as a justification for gun control, are wrong. New York City's averge response times for critical events are still upwards of 7 minutes. The maxim persists that a personnally owned firearm will provide for your defense sooner the police officer arrives, though if disarmed the police will still arrive soon enough to take your statement, provide medical care, or draw an outline around your body. Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 22:21

In the interest of full disclosure, I don't particularly care for guns or wish to own one (though I have seriously considered careers that would require me to use a gun in the course of duty), but I do not feel that my position should be imposed upon others UNLESS someone can show me compelling arguments that certain actions need to be taken...

I'm specifically referring to things like closing the gun show loophole and limiting access of those with mental illness to guns.

Okay, so the gun show "loophole" isn't really a loophole, but a part of Federalism. The U.S. Congress regulations on the sale of firearms exist as part of their regulatory powers under the Interstate-Commerce Clause of the Constitution, and as such, anyone wishing to manufacture or sell firearms in bulk must have a Federal Firearms Liscense (FFL) which requires that all dealers perform a background check on individuals within the FBI databases as to whether they may or may not purchase weapons (20 year jail sentence). The loophole comes into play as the Federal Government may not regulate commerce within a state. Thus two individuals may privately sell fire arms between themselves provided that the seller versifies that the purchaser is a resident of the same state they live in AND that they have no reason to believe the seller will commit a crime. Some states are stricter and require a background check... others do not... it depends on the state. In addition, in the states with lesser restrictions, you can still be held reliable if a privately sold firearm was used in a crime. This does depend on how reasonable you were to know it would happen. Knowingly buying for someone who would not ordinarily be able to buy from an FFL dealer is a crime and people can get arrested for it. Either way, this is specifically an issue the states must decide and some states can get weird about it (my state for example, requires it for handguns only. I could privately sell the AR-15 in my state without a back ground check.) and others do the full check.

In the case of mental illness, there is considerable discussion over what can be done that respects the rights of the individual. As it stands, an FFL background check does search records for history of mental illness. HOWEVER, there are some considerations to the issue. First, a doctor is not required to tell law enforcement anything about the patient's mental health unless the patient express a potential threat to himself of others. Next, having a mental condition does not necessarily mean that you are automatically a threat. I have some mental health conditions, but the thought of shooting up my place of work or a school. Finally, there is serious consideration of the threat of taking away ones rights to the patient actively seeking help if stricter screening is imposed.

Having said all that, several states do have "Firearm Restraining Orders" which allow individuals close to the mentally ill person to receive a court order to remove firearms from there possession due to mental illness (and other situations). Some states have this, others do not, and I do not see this as an unreasonable mechanism for better control.

It seems absurd that those representing guns, a consumer product, could be so influential in this country. Imagine if 1/1,000,000 refrigerators blew up and killed everyone in the house, but we couldn't pass safety restrictions on them, because the refrigerator lobby is too powerful.

I think this is a bad for both sides of the debate to use. The car statistic isn't better. The point of this is, that cars/refrigerators deaths are largely due to accidents, not deliberate use to inflict harm. Even the people who own for hunting, or personal safety are going to kill something, either legally and illegally. Accidents with respect to cars and fridges are more to blame for their deaths of users than firearms (not including wars or justified homicides/self-defense, in the United States bout 2/3rds are suicide, about 1/3rd is criminal homicide, and the small remainder are accidental/unknown). It's an apples and oranges thing.

There are any number of reasons as to why the lobby is so strong, but it's by far not the strongest lobby in the United States. I can quote numbers later, but suffice to say, it's small compared to other well known lobbies at the top of the doner lists. But the best line I've heard on that answer is because gun ownership is viewed as a right in the United States and Passing a law of any kind is a lot of work. From that frame of mind, the NRA has to convince people not to pass a law, which is much much easier, where as gun control advocates have to work harder... and the NRA isn't totally against the idea of Gun Control. In fact, they have supported in full or in part more gun control legislation than they've opposed in their entire history.

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    Thanks a lot for the insightful answer @hszmv. Most convincing point: "gun ownership is viewed as a right in the United States and Passing a law of any kind is a lot of work. From that frame of mind, the NRA has to convince people not to pass a law, which is much much easier, where as gun control advocates have to work harder (...) " -- makes much sense for sure! Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 17:48
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    The lobby is strong because a lot of citizens support it. And the car analogy has some basis in fact if you look at Europe, where the preferred weapon for mass murder is now a truck. Addressing the root cause would be far more effective, if one truly desires to stop mass killings.
    – tj1000
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 20:09
  • @tj1000: I'm not denying that cars can be and are used for murder. Just that I prefer to not rely on comparisons to make points. For example, Knives are used in murders far more than rifles (but less than hand guns). If a pro-gun rights advocate points this out to a pro-gun control advocate, then they run the risk of the latter moving to ban Knives, like they are doing in London.
    – hszmv
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 13:25
  • @tj1000 - taking into account that majority of the mass shootings were done by persons on long-term pharmacological treatments for psychological/psychiatric issues (and almost all shootings in schools), and taking into account that manufacturers of those drugs "recommend" the treatment to be done under "close and constant supervision" of the medical staff (due to the serious side effects) the answer would be: if you want to stop mass killings you should start again putting crazies who are likely commit them in mental institution where they belong.
    – user10424
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 14:04

All answers to your question will eventually circle back around to the Bill of Rights or a debate filled with emotion, one way or another. The only answer I can provide is that in the USA there is a culture cultivated from the very first moment a child enters school till they are at the end of their lives, that the Bill of Rights and the essential freedoms provided by the Founding Fathers to the nation are for the most part immutable.

This is not to declare this culture as a bad one (as this has been a reason they have never descended into a dictatorship at any point in history), but it also explains with great detail why it is so difficult to ever amend the Bill of Rights, no matter how outdated or not any concept contained within is. A strong argument can be made for the fact that in the current society, where there is police, an army at least twice as large as any other foreign power, and hardly anyone living outside of developed areas, that the reasons for the Second Amendment have changed significantly. Nowadays criminals who are able to access guns far easier in the USA then anywhere else outside the developing world are a far greater threat then it was in the 1700's. This argument is undone however by the connection of the people of the USA to the Bill of Rights and its continued immutability.

There is a common theory in political circles outside of the USA that as the years pass on that the Bill of Rights will only continue to serve as a hindrance to the potential of the nation. Whilst nations such as Australia and the UK have progressed from quite conservative nations centred around their monarchy to some of the most well rated democracies in the world in just over a century, the USA seems to still be stuck in the 1700's (which is also a strong testament to how forward thinking the Founding Father's were in regards to building a democracy for their document to still be relatively ideal in the current age). This theory is often cited when the world is forced to observe events such as mass shooting, which are effectively non-existent in the rest of the developed world.

I would like to elaborate before I sign off here that whilst I believe gun ownership should be controlled to instances of recreational use and for people living on farms/regional communities where wild animals may be of concern, I don't believe in imposing my beliefs on anyone here or suggesting that my way is the "best" way. I simply wish to provide an alternative answer from an outside perspective to a question that has been asked millions of time.

EDIT: There are plenty of counter-arguments that can be posed to every point I propose, but I hope we can all discuss these topics in a bi-partisan way with a focus on ensuring we all learn something new or find a new perspective

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