Will the US Ever Change Its Gun Laws?

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Al-Jazeera

Will the US Ever Change Its Gun Laws?

We analyse the failure of US gun control laws in preventing recurring mass shootings

Barack Obama, the US president, has had to make speeches like this three times already during his tenure, consoling communities where mass killings had taken place.

The said mass murders took place in Tucson in Arizona, Fort Hood in Texas and Aurora in Colorado.

But it was only after last week's killing of 20 children aged six and seven in Connecticut that Obama said it was time for action.

"Can we say that we're truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose? I've been reflecting on this the last few days and if we're honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We're not doing enough, and we'll have to change," he said.

While Obama did not use the word "gun" in his speech to members of the Newtown, Massachusetts community, gun control has now become the focus of discussion.

The US has the highest gun ownership per capita in the world – nine guns for every 10 Americans.

On Friday morning, 26 people were killed after a gunman carrying a high-powered military-style rifle and other guns stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

The gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, was armed with four weapons and a semi-automatic rifle with dozens of high-velocity rounds – all of which were obtained legally by his mother. Lanza also killed his mother and took his own life.

An investigation by Mother Jones into US mass shootings over the last 30 years found that in 80 per cent of 62 incidents, the guns were obtained legally; while in 11 incidents they were obtained illegally.

As for the type of guns, the investigation found 66 semi-automatic handguns were used in the shootings, 35 assault weapons, 20 revolvers and 17 shotguns.

Gun control opponents say guns should not be blamed for the actions of a person.

While acknowledging there was no one answer to ending this type of violence, Obama said more had to be done.

Is more stringent gun control the answer to preventing mass shootings in the US?

Joining the discussion with presenter Shihab Rattansi on Inside Story Americas are guests: Adam Winkler, a specialist in US constitutional law and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America; Mark Follman, a senior editor at Mother Jones which has done a special report on mass shootings in the US; and Christian Heyne, a grassroots coordinator for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), the main gun lobby in the US, declined Al Jazeera's invitation to join the discussion.

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