As the Editorial Board, we express our sorrow for the tragedy in Parkland, Florida that has resulted in the deaths of 17 schoolchildren and teachers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those stricken with a tragedy that now seems intractable from the news cycle. Yet we also recognize the futility of prayers in absence of initiative being taken to prevent the next atrocity. Moreover, gun control is often addressed only after mass shootings and not also in response to tragedies like the 586 gun homicides in Chicago in 2016 alone. We intend therefore to reflect on this most recent tragedy as part of a greater trend within an American narrative so willing to sacrifice the safety of innocent citizens to protect our Second Amendment rights. 

Only in the United States is the idea of an armed civilian population as salient among conservative thinkers, and sometimes given its own unassailable cult of personality in the name of ‘liberty.’ The idea that the right to bear arms represents a hedge against government tyranny is a quintessentially American consequence of being born out of Revolution. The year 2018 warrants scrutiny over whether the original intent of the Second Amendment, drafted justifiably for its dramatically different time, applies to modern society. In contrast, conservatives in Australia had little qualms orchestrating gun control legislation post-Port Arthur, while post-Dunblane, a British Conservative government led the way in passing stricter firearm laws. Unfortunately, this historically catalyzed American gun culture has resulted in the formulation of spectacularly copious arguments in favor of Second Amendment rights such as military presence in schools or arming all nightclub goers.

Sad is the aspiration to a ‘marketplace of ideas’ when debate is monetarily monopolized by National Rifle Association funds. The NRA does not hesitate in exploiting the aforementioned attitude toward firearms for personal benefit while ensuring that due attention is not paid to the ease of acquiring lethal weaponry. The knee-jerk redirection of the conversation to mental health, albeit necessary in the long run, loses credibility when the onerous extent of NRA influence on GOP policymakers is acknowledged. Indeed, “people kill people,” and so government should have an active role in limiting the means with which this is done. Surely even the most conservative view on government’s role—the protection of life, liberty, and property—would not object to such rudimentary demands. In reverse, the Democratic side of the aisle has also resorted to focusing on the newsworthy aspect of such atrocities: legislating stricter laws on semi-automatic rifles is a necessary but relatively insignificant act when one weighs up the routine havoc wreaked using pistols.

We find ourselves condemned to the central agency problem of representative democracy: to what extent are Senators and Representatives true agents of the people and not of special interest lobbies? The bitterness of the status quo might allude to the latter. It seems, unfortunately, that the only way to balance against NRA influence on our representatives is for liberal donors to outspend the NRA, and for the media to act as the fourth estate, while further undermining our republic’s democratic integrity. The uncomfortable reality is that this institution is already dysfunctional by its own open nature and the unquestioned flow of capital that supplements it. Thus, we are faced with a question of whether liberal donors ought to go through the same channels should they desire tangible change. Nowhere in the American Dream is there a caveat about having to teach schoolchildren how to dodge bullets sent hurling through their hallways.