“TAKE a sticker,” urges the woman from Ambush Firearms. “We are giving away two free guns every day to people wearing them.” What your correspondent would do with an semi-automatic rifle, let alone one that also comes in pink, was not obvious. Welcome to the annual convention of the National Rifle Association (NRA)—this year held in St Louis, Missouri. It is a yearly celebration of freedom, the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and, above all else, a festival of guns. Seven acres, to be precise, of guns and gear.
Americans like firearms. According to a report from the Congressional Research Service there were 294m guns in the country in 2007, up from 192m in 1994. More guns might be expected to mean more influence for the NRA, except that the number of households with guns has actually declined fairly consistently since 1973. The people who buy guns, it seems, are usually those who already own them. One probable cause of this decline is a shift to urban living. Moreover, safety-conscious Americans are increasingly aware that, statistically, a gun is a far greater risk to friends and family than it is of potential use in self-defence.
Nonetheless, some Americans hang on to their weapons because they enjoy hunting or target practice, or live in places with too many wild animals or too few policemen. The right to gun ownership is enshrined in the constitution and is regarded by many as an issue of civil liberty—something that Europeans struggle to understand. So even as outrage is sparked over shootings such as that of Trayvon Martin in Florida and former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, there is little appetite for gun-control legislation.
尽管如此，一些美国人还是喜欢配枪，因为他们要么喜欢打猎或打靶，要么住在野生动物多或者警察太少的地方。持枪权利被写入宪法，而且被许多人视为公民自由。然而欧洲人对这却难以理解。尽管人们对福罗里达州的Trayvon Martin枪击案和前国会女议员Gabrielle Giffords枪击案极其愤怒，这也没有引发枪支管制的立法。
Quite the opposite. Behind the march of pro-gun laws across America (such as “stand your ground” ordinances that allow for the use of force in self-defence, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first, now in effect in more than half the states) is the NRA and its lobbying arm, the mildly-named Institute for Legislative Action. The NRA’s influence on introducing legislation has been remarkable. The debate about guns is no longer over whether assault rifles ought to be banned, but over whether guns should be allowed in bars, churches and colleges.