The murder of 20 schoolchildren by Adam Lanza is a horrific reminder of the way in which the easy access to firearms in America can maximize one man's potential for evil. Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass shootings, and in the vast majority of cases, the weapons were acquired legally. After the tragic events in Newtown, there is a growing sense that something has to change.
Sadly, there is a gulf between what is morally right and what is politically feasible. In the past, President Barack Obama has stated that semi-automatic weapons of the variety used at Newtown belong in the hands of soldiers rather than citizens, and also that it should be much harder for people with a history of mental illness to own guns: many multiple person shootings are carried out by people suffering from paranoia or depression, who often show signs of illness prior to their actions.
Yet despite his promise of "meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this", the president's record of inaction reflects how reluctant American politicians are to act on such a contentious issue. ...
Crucially, opposition to gun control is not limited to ideological lobbies. For many ordinary Americans, gun ownership is synonymous with self-reliance, and they inhabit a culture in which hunting has both mythic and popular appeal. Any effort to curtail significantly access to guns would not only face legal objections but also risk an ugly political war between town and country. ...
In short, whatever steps are taken in the wake of this tragedy, guns will remain a central part of America's culture, as will gun violence. That may appear baffling to European eyes, but it is not something that can or will be quickly or easily changed.