At least six people were killed and 24 injured in a shooting in the northern United States on Monday during an Independence Day parade, authorities said. Frequent in the United States, the shootings are made possible by a permissive legislation on the sale and the carrying of weapons.
a constitutionally protected right
Steeped in American culture and history, the bearing of arms is enshrined in the famous Second Amendment to the Constitution.
“A well-organized militia being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms must not be infringed”, is it written in this text dating from 1791.
Written at a time when the police did not exist and when citizens organized themselves into “militia” to defend themselves, this amendment is subject to interpretation. Does it concern an individual right (that of arming oneself to defend oneself) or a collective right (that of arming oneself but only within the framework of a militia)?
In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that “the Second Amendment protects the individual’s right to own a firearm while not serving in the militia, and to use that weapon as permitted by law.”
Each state has its own legislation
Each state has its own legislation governing the Second Amendment.
In Texas, where the shooting took place, the carrying of weapons has almost no limit. Anyone over the age of 21 can hold a firearm in public, without a licence, as long as they are not subject to a firearms prohibition. No psychiatric background checks are done.
Some states are more restrictive, like New York. A license is required to buy a handgun there and the background of the buyer is checked. Magazine size is limited to 10 rounds and assault rifles are prohibited.
At the federal level, little regulation
Regulating the carrying of weapons is a sea serpent of American politics, and many presidents have broken their teeth there.
In 1994, Joe Biden, then chairman of the Senate Justice Committee, passed a text banning assault weapons. But the Republicans had succeeded in adding an expiry date to it and ten years later, the text became obsolete.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, the Democrat promised further reforms. But in the absence of a strong majority in Congress, he could only settle for micro-measures, such as those tightening the regulation of weapons sold in kit form, known as “phantom weapons”.
His predecessor Barack Obama did no better. His law imposing the control of the psychiatric antecedents of the purchasers of weapons had also come up against the refusal of the Congress.
Even if a law restricting the carrying of weapons were passed, it would have a good chance of being challenged by the Supreme Court, currently dominated by conservative judges.