The One Issue That's Escaped Public Outrage After Charleston

July 1st 2015

Nicole Charky

As people struggle to understand what made a 21-year-old white man shoot and kill nine Black people inside a historic Charleston, South Carolina church, media attention has shifted to banning the Confederate flag. But according to one expert, a highly controversial item, guns, have largely escaped the public ire.  

Barry Glassner, the president of Lewis and Clark University and author of The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things told ATTN: that the prevalence of gun culture in the U.S. and the inability for politicians to tackle gun control is how mass shootings, such as the massacre in Charleston, persist.  

“The situation is pretty simple and it’s interesting that people are so good at making it complicated,” Glassner says. “If it were harder for people who shouldn't have access to guns to have them, then these incidents wouldn’t happen.” 

Speaking after President Barack Obama's speech following the Charleston shooting, Glassner says, “There’s no political will for solutions."

“Part of what I find really interesting is that after each of these shootings there’s a lot of discussion, and most of it is beside the point because there’s no political mechanism in this country for doing what every other advanced country has done, which is to make it very difficult for people who have access to guns to get them,” Glassner says. 

On June 18, President Obama stated the following: 

"Now is the time for mourning and for healing, but let's be clear, at some point we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other countries... It is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now, but it'd be wrong for us not to acknowledge it." 

Glassner describes what Obama's speech can tell us about our current gun culture. 

"He’s often accused of not getting very angry or emotional, but if you watch all his remarks you will see he got very emotional and angry about the fact that no one’s dealing with the gun issue and time after time as president he has to stand up and say the same thing. Obviously he was deeply affected about where this tragedy occurred and all that it means for African Americans and Americans." 

However, Glassner says that people cannot rely on politics to shift our gun laws.  

"No presidential candidate is going to take it on unless there’s a significant part of the population from whom they would win elections if they dealt with it." 

And this is where polling proves Glassner correct; according to data from Pew Research Center released in 2014, and for the first time in more than 20 years, there is now more support for gun rights than gun control. One-third of Americans also own guns.

Two Years After Newtown, A Shift in Favor of Gun Rights

If people want gun laws to change, then it will be up to the next generation to push for it.

"Like the generations before that, they’ve given up on it," Glassner says. "They think it’s so entrenched in American culture that nothing can be done about it, which is really sad. I don’t know what will change it. Littleton, Colorado, and Sandy Hook, and many others that Millennials have lived through haven’t done it, so it’s hard to imagine what will. It’s too bad because it’s going to go on and the death toll is pretty staggering and by and large, needless. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The number of preventable suicides could be reduced, the number of gun accidents, pretty much innocent gun accidents could be reduced."