Brooklyn Bridge gun control march: Could pushback against gun culture be working?

Gun control advocates marched in New York City Saturday, part of the effort to take on America’s gun culture and the deadly shootings happening daily in the United States.

John Minchillo/AP
Diana Rodriguez holds a framed image of her daughter Samantha Guzman who was a victim of gun violence, at a rally outside city hall to call for tougher gun control laws, Saturday in New York.

The hundreds of gun-control protesters who crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and marched on New York City Hall on Saturday had an emotional message to deliver about recent school and mass shootings: “Not one more!”

The march is part of former New York Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s gambit to coalesce a gun control movement now flush with money but low on national traction into a political force. They are up against a considerable foe – not just the powerful National Rifle Association, but a general trend in America toward expanding, not contracting gun rights.

But as the number of Columbine-style school shootings pile up – there have been 15 since the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, according to CNN – the march also represents a shift among gun control groups. Finding little traction in Congress and state houses, they’re starting to take on gun culture more generally, forcing Americans to look at whether broadening gun rights is motivating the mostly young, white males opening fire on their fellow citizens and classmates.

“Fostering a gun culture … comes at a price,” writes Paul Barrett, in Business Week.

President Obama acknowledged that sentiment this week after a 15-year-old Oregon student brought a semi-automatic rifle into school in a guitar case and killed a fellow student and himself. But Obama also angered some gun control advocates when he acknowledged there’s little that can be done until Americans more broadly reconsider the current gun rights trajectory.

“Until there is a fundamental shift in public opinion in which people say: ‘Enough, this is not acceptable, this is not normal, this isn’t, sort of, the price we should be paying for our freedom,’ sadly, not that much is going to change,” Obama said.

Indeed, gun culture has been in the headlines regularly for the past few years as states expand so-called “stand your ground” laws and, as Georgia just did, push to allow legally-obtained and licensed guns in more public places, including churches and airports. The Trayvon Martin shooting and subsequent trial of George Zimmerman forced America to confront unintended consequences of normalizing public gun-carry and use.

The problem for gun control groups, some commentators have pointed out, is that small measures to control guns – even expanding background checks to private purchases – will only aggravate and agitate the huge numbers of Americans who are passionate about the Second Amendment.

Moreover, some gun policy experts argue, those determined to kill will find ways to do so, even if they have to obtain a gun on the black market. Indeed, “background checks do absolutely nothing to deter teenagers and young men from breaking into their parents’ gun locker, stealing legally owned weapons, and taking them to a school or other public places for murderous and suicidal purposes,” writes Mr. Barrett.

But those tough truths are hardly deterring those who want something done about America’s inescapable problem with gun violence.

“The reality is that the NRA will keep winning unless something changes in the approach by those like myself who desperately want to see a reduction in the number of people killed by guns each and every day,” writes Dean Obeidallah, in the Daily Beast.

Targeting America’s gun culture and its costs more directly, at least in part exemplified by Saturday’s Brooklyn Bridge march, has begun to pay some dividends.

Moms Demand Action, a group formed after the Sandy Hook shootings, has succeeded in pushing corporations like Chipotle to ask customers to not bring guns into their stores.

That effort has itself been helped by more extreme protests by gun aficionados, especially a group called Open Carry Texas, which has staged demonstrations by carrying high-powered rifles in slings and in hand into food establishments.

And in aftermath of the Santa Barbara shootings, the gun control movement became galvanized by the angry pleas of “Not one more!” by Richard Martinez, whose son Chris was killed by Elliott Rodger, the disturbed son of a Hollywood movie director.

Marchers on Saturday will be “channeling the fury of Richard Martinez, who scolded gutless politicians after his son was gunned down by Elliot Rodger, the vicious virgin who went on a killing spree in California out of apparent sexual frustration,” the New York Daily News writes.

The case of Mr. Rodger, especially, has sparked new questions about America’s embrace of gun culture, given a massive manifesto he left behind in which he writes about how holding a gun made him feel powerful and like the “alpha male” that he aspired to become.

Rodger’s “case should force us to confront America’s gun culture, and to ask whether we make it too desirable to own a firearm,” Adam Weinstein writes in Gawker. 

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