48 hours after the terrible massacre which mourned Tuesday evening the school of Uvalde, in the west of Texas, it is in Houston, more in the east, that will take place on Friday the annual convention of the National Riffle Association, the all-powerful “NRA”the arms lobby in the United States, the first since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Among the speakers in this huge rout, the former American president Donald Trump, and the very conservative Republican governor of the State of Texas, Greg Abbott.
Not less of 638 exhibitors will share the 56,000 square meters of the George R. Brown Center until Sunday, in one of the most permissive gun states.
The NRA, the most powerful lobby in the world
The National Riffle Association, or NRA, is considered the most powerful lobbying group in the world today.
Born in 1871 from the grouping of a few hunters and shooting enthusiasts, it celebrated its 150th birthday in 2021. In the United States, since 1975, it has mainly led a merciless political fight to defend the famous second amendment of the constitution, on the right to possess a weapon.
With each attempt to limit this right, however minimal, the NRA steps up to the plate and mobilizes its 5 million members. Each election campaign allows her to recall the power conferred on her by her budget of 300 million dollars: she spent, in 2016, 10 million dollars for Donald Trump… and double that against her opponent Hillary Clinton.
Result: despite the tearful statements that follow each mass shooting, nothing, or almost nothing, has changed in terms of gun legislation in recent decades in the United States.
Since last September, it is even possible throughout Texas to hold and carry a weapon in public – even without a license – as long as you are over 21 years old: the 1927 House Bill ended the requirement to obtain a license to carry a handgun. With a few rare exceptions.
No training required
Consequences: it is now useless to follow a training course, to face an aptitude test, or to present your criminal or medical history like your fingerprints.
The law has just provided for an “online course”, on the Texas government site, to “train”. Without any obligation to do so…
The governor of Texas remains one of the staunchest defenders of the second amendment to the American constitution, which states that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”.
Always with the same argument – that carried by the NRA: honest citizens must be able to arm themselves freely in order to defend themselves against criminals who themselves are armed. And this, even if the studies are formal: the proliferation of weapons does not reduce violence or crime, quite the contrary.
Clubs and pistols prohibited on racetracks
Today in Texas, it is possible to carry a weapon in a “concealed” way almost everywhere: religious buildings, shops, schools, museums… And a “visible” weapon in most cases as well, starting with the street . Now, without the need for any permit.
There are rare and sometimes surprising exceptions: in federal buildings, whether it’s the local FBI branch or a post office, the tax office…carrying a gun is almost still prohibited by federal law.
Among the curiosities of the Texas penal code: it is never possible to go to the racetrack or to an amusement park armed with “a club, a knife or a gun”. On the other hand, it is perfectly possible at school, as long as the rules allow it. Greg Abbott prefers, as promoted by the NRA, the armament of teachers to face the risk of a massacre.
Equally surprising: it is forbidden to be armed within 300 meters of the place of a capital execution, but only on the days when these take place.
United States: sale of weapons, homicides and suicides on the rise
Are the killings that regularly beset the country curbing the personal arms race in the United States? No, and it’s even the opposite: over the past twenty years, manufacturers have produced more than 139 million firearms for the public (excluding the army) – including 11.3 million for the year 2020 alone, according to a report by the Ministry of Justice released in early May.
Without counting the 71 million imported specimens, that is to say more than 200 million weapons acquired by the Americans in 20 years.
Record arms sales
Same observation on the business side: between 2000 and 2020, the number of arms manufacturers rose from 2,222 to… 16,963. Sign of a market that is buoyant to say the least.
The most “prosperous” years always follow the worst dramas: in 2013, after the massacre which saw 27 people including 20 children fall under the bullets of Adam Lanza, sales increased by 30%.
Same scenario in 2016, after the appalling San Bernardino massacre at the end of 2015: it is even a historic record, with 11.9 million units sold in a single year.
In 2000, “only” 3.9 million weapons were sold, and never more than 4 million until 2008. Since 2013, it has always been more than 10 million per year. Two types of weapons are preferred: the AR-15 type semi-automatic rifle, widely used during mass killings; and the 9mm semi-automatic pistol – reputed to be cheap, simple and accurate.
The explosion of “phantom” weapons
The authorities point to the rise of “ghost” weapons – in kit form, or even made at home using a 3D printer. Lacking serial numbers and even weapon status, they easily slip out of control. In 2021, the police seized nearly 20,000, compared to less than 2,000 five years earlier.
The number of firearm deaths in the United States recorded a “historic” increase in 2020: 19,350 homicides (+35% in one year), and 24,245 suicides, according to the authorities.
In the United States there are more than 300 million weapons – legal – in circulation, or more or less one per inhabitant (twice as many as at the end of the 1960s). But with a high concentration: just over a third of households have at least one weapon, despite the increase in sales.
Weapons prohibited near executions
Carrying firearms is also prohibited in Texas prisons. But after completing their sentence, convicted felons are free to acquire one, carry it around and use it, as long as their sentence ended five years or more ago.
An exception is intriguing: the government itself prohibits the carrying of weapons… “in the room or rooms where a meeting of a governmental entity is held, if the meeting is public”.
Finally, it is “illegal to store, transport or abandon an unsecured firearm in a place accessible to children”, specifies the Texas penal code. A “safe” weapon, on the other hand, is not a problem.
A majority of Texans opposed to the relaxation of the law
Contrary to popular belief, the Texan population is however not so favorable to such an easing of legal restrictions: only a third (34%) supported the end of the license to carry a weapon.
And Texas is far from being among the most “armed” of American states: only a large third of households have a weapon there, compared to two-thirds of households in Alaska, and more than half for Arkansas, Idaho , Montana, West Virginia and Wyoming.
On the other hand, it concentrates a very large quantity of firearms, because of its high population: Texas is the second most populated American state, behind California.
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United States. Uvalde school shooting: Why Texas remains a “paradise” for guns
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