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Inside Story Americas

The politics of gun control

Are the American people as divided over the issue of gun control as their politicians?
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2013 20:03
Guns, Culture and Crime in the US - in a special three-part series, Inside Story Americas takes the debate on gun control to the American people. Are they as divided as their politicians?

Mass shootings in primary schools, universities, movie theatres, and places of worship - the US has seen them all.

They are often followed by heartfelt statements by politicians on Capitol Hill and by the president, with little action.

But the killing of six and seven year olds in Newtown Connecticut last month led to a different response. For the first time President Barack Obama has put forth a plan he believes could decrease gun violence.

Some democrats, like Virginia Senator Mark Warner, who have been staunch supporters of gun rights, now say it is time for stricter gun control.

Most Republican politicians however continue to oppose further firearms legislation, choosing instead to focus on the increased surveillance of the mentally ill.

But are Americans as divided as their politicians?

Recent polls show a majority support stricter gun control measures, like universal background checks for all gun sales and the banning of military-style semi-automatic weapons.

In the second part of our special series on gun control we examine the political forces behind this defining debate.

"[The] gun lobby is powerful, [the] disability rights lobby is less so. Let's be honest here - it's very difficult to have meaningful legislative action on some of [the] broader issues relating to gun violence. People would like to believe this problem lies with some kind of 'other'. When there is [an] instance of violent crime involving an African American or Hispanic youth, people start talking about gang violence. When there is [an] instance of violent crime involving Muslim Americans, people start talking about terrorism. When the shooter is [a] Caucasian male people suddenly look to psychiatric or neurological disability because it's some way of saying [the] problem isn't here at home, [the] problem is over there with those kinds of people. That's wrong. It also leads to terrible public policy."

Ari Ne'eman, from the Autistic Advocacy Network

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Al Jazeera
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