Boston University

Nevada and the right to legally bear weapons of a mass shooting: a freedom or a sign of democratic backsliding? by Dorothy Spector @ Boston University

In wake of the recent mass shooting in Nevada, one of the deadliest shootings in American history, the debate on why legislation’s have not been put in place to prevent such events reappears. Americans have gone through more than enough shooting attacks, including but not limited to the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary, Orlando Pulse Nightclub, and the Aurora theater attack and still no legislation has been an effective deterrence. This is not the first mass shooting, and with tensions rising between political parties, and no progress in gun control, it is possible to not be the last. As a result, it is necessary for American’s to realize issues of gun control are not only correlated to the constitution are indicative of the democratic system as a whole.

A key aspect to acknowledge in relation to gun control policies is that if the American democracy is being upheld, the policies should correlate with the wants on the people. According to Robert A. Dahl, democracy is a political system that is completely or almost completely responsive to all its citizens that have the ability to formulate their preferences, signify their preferences, and have their preferences weighed equally. Thus, if the preferences of the people are the basis of democracy, is it really the leaders of the American government who need persuading in matters of gun control, or the American people themselves?

Moreover, when inter-party semantics and upheaval in the media take center stage and disrupt the opportunities for debate and compromise on controversial topics, neither side can properly be heard nor can progress can be made. Instead, the responsibilities for the controversial policies are put upon the leaders to know what is best. Joseph Schumpeter states there is no uniquely determined common good and when wills are divided, less likely political decisions will conform to what people want. With this, the will of the people can be thought to vanish as it instead begins to rely on the assumptions about “natural” object of that will.

In this case, is sticking to an amendment made prior to the era of modernization without alterations to the amendment the common good of the people? On February 28th, 2017 President Trump thought so, when he repealed a rule under the Social Security Administration requiring the agency to report the names of individuals with special cases of mental disabilities to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The rule was not perfect, as it was not preventing gun ownership to all types of mental illness, but it was a start. President Trump’s was said to oppose the rule due to the threat of endangering the second amendment rights of law abiding citizens. However, if Trump’s decision is in the hope of evading democratic erosion or evading a loss in the next presidential campaign remains to be seen.

Thus, in a political system where it can be argued the main goal of politician is to gain popular opinion in hopes of reelection, perhaps the American people must portray their own strategic campaigns as well. If Americans made gun control their main concern then representatives would be forced to acknowledge and pose solutions, but because there is not a clear consensus or push for gun control after the media stops covering the events, there has been an impasse.

The answer may or may not be gun regulation, but if there is one thing for certain it is that change will only come when the American people know where they stand and how their answer contributes to the common good.

Furthermore, if Lust and Waldner are correct in defining democratic backsliding as the decline in the quality of democracy, and is independent of regime change, then perhaps the event in Nevada and what led to it is a sign of a collective issue of democratic backsliding. Due to a lack of solution gun control has transformed from a democratic controversy to a possible of democratic backsliding. If Americans don’t take a position on gun control and don’t make it known in a time where it is continuously causing the death of innocents, and nothing productive gets done, does the fault only fall on the leader if the democracy backslides?




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