The Valentine’s Day massacre in Florida was the eighteenth school shooting of the year – claiming at least 17 lives. This unsurprisingly reignited the debate of gun control in the USA, and while many see these heinous acts as possible catalysts for gun law reform, the events of Valentine’s Day will do nothing in the form of speeding up gun-related policy.
Almost half of mass shooting cases have involved a shooter who had been ‘red-flagged’ (i.e. someone who has a history of violence or mental health problems), as was the case with Omar Mateen – the shooter responsible for the Orlando shootings in 2016. Despite the logical assumption that lethal weapons must not be easily accessible, there are only four states with restrictions on the purchase of firearms: California, Connecticut, Indiana and Washington. Apart from Indiana, the mentioned states are all within the fifteenth percentile for lowest gun-related deaths. Generally, the states with the tightest gun-purchasing restrictions have the least gun related deaths.
The above facts are not new and is common knowledge even amongst the most ardent supporters of ‘gun rights’. These people are aware of the dangers of guns but often cite the Second Amendment to the Constitution – the protection of the right to bear arms.
Republicans also echo the same arguments as most of the gun-rights ‘activists’, probably not through ideological conviction but through their reliance on National Rifle Association (NRA) donations: the anti-gun-restriction NRA donated $50.2 million to the Republican Party during the 2016 election. The Republicans in Congress will blindly oppose even the most moderate gun-control policies – as they did in February 2017 when they repealed an Obama-era executive order which ensured background checks would be taken on those wishing to purchase guns.
It is not hard to see why Republicans are so religiously against gun-control measures, as the NRA support for Congressional Republicans during elections tends to end in a victory for the Great Old Party (GOP). Of all the state races the NRA poured funds into, only the Nevada race was unsuccessful.
The resolution to gun violence in America is not just a case of debating the pros and cons of gun control but a question of fixing the crooked patronage system which benefits the mere interest group and political party, as is the case with the NRA and Republican Party. With the GOP in control of both houses in Congress, and increasing role of interest groups funding electoral campaigns, gun reform is further away than ever.
So it is all but official the battle for the Presidency will be between Hillary Clinton for Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans. Trump has bested all of his Republican rivals and stands alone in the Republican field as the presumptive nominee. Clinton has not yet sealed the Democratic nomination but her victory is inevitable with the focus of her campaign already turning to the General Election and the fight against Trump.
Hillary Clinton as a candidate divides voters. She has been dogged by a number of controversies, most recently over her e-mails and it appears these scandals have registered with the American voters. The latest poll ratings showed her unfavourability ratings at 54.9% compared to favourability ratings of 38.4% equating to an overall negative rating of 16.5%. These findings are often considered the best indicator of a candidate’s success chances and therefore are far from pleasant reading for Clinton.
Furthermore Clinton does not boast universal support in her own party. A lot of Democratic voters are openly resentful of her and are far from certain to turn out and vote in the General Election. Turnout could be crucial in this unpredictable election and if Clinton cannot convince the Sanders supporters she could face a difficult night.
In normal circumstances this would be a Republican’s to lose, however these circumstances are far from normal. Donald Trump has so far defied all political norms and rules in his meteoric rise to the Republican candidacy. He has insulted large proportions of the American electorate, but yet has still managed to be successful. Could he repeat this trick at the General Election?
Although Clinton’s ratings are bad, they are nothing compared to Trump’s. His unfavourable ratings stand at 58.3% with his favourability ratings at 36.5% giving him an overall negative of over 20%. Trump has insulted both women and Hispanics in this election and it is hard to see how given the demographics in the U.S a candidate can be successful with these tactics.
Trump, like Clinton has problems on his own flank as well. Remarkably there are still many in the Republican Party unwilling to either campaign for or endorse Trump. This is true of some Republican voters as well. A figure who cannot even convince his own party to back him is surely going to find it hard to convince the country to back him.
Clinton is a beatable candidate. A Republican candidate who could appeal across the divide would likely be successful. Trump is not the candidate. Clinton may not be liked, but she is more popular than Trump. Therefore in what is likely to be a highly negative campaign fought between two unpopular candidates, it will be Clinton who will be successful. In the fall with no great enthusiasm America will elect their first female President.