The AtlanticThe Atlantic

The problem America cannot fix

By John J. Donohue

12 Apr 2023 · 7 min read

Editor's Note

Americans support many sensible gun measures, according to The Atlantic. But flaws in the country's democracy have prevented the government from adopting them, despite a spate of mass shootings.

The deadliest acts of mass murder in the United States since 9/11 all share one feature: The killer in every case used an assault-style weapon or a firearm equipped with a high-capacity magazine. This was again the case last Monday, at a shooting at a Kentucky bank that killed five, and in the recent shooting at the elementary school in Nashville that killed six, including three 9-year-old children.

And yet, the country has failed to adopt the policies needed to keep these weapons out of the hands of those who would abuse them. At the most obvious level, mass shootings are a serious and worsening problem that imposes substantial burdens on the public. But they are something else as well: a national disgrace that illuminates the inability of the American political system to adopt numerous popular public-policy strategies that together could substantially reduce the prevalence and destructiveness of these events. One of those measures—the federal assault-weapons ban—was in place for a decade, but it was allowed to lapse in 2004. The gun lobby is challenging every valuable gun-safety law throughout the United States, with the belief that Republican appointees on the Supreme Court will protect the right to sell lethal weaponry to as many Americans as possible.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content