Bullets to the head
Why James Brady's shooting led to gun control, but Gabby Giffords's did not
为什么James Brady的矛头直指枪支管制而Gabby Gifford的却没有
WHEN James Brady, who at the time was Ronald Reagan's press secretary, was shot in the head during a failed assassination attempt on the president in 1981, newscasts reported that he was dead. This proved premature: Mr Brady died on August 4th. After the shooting, he went on to become the country's most successful advocate for gun control. Under a law that bears his name, over 2m applications for firearm purchases have been turned down after background checks revealed that their owners were not the sorts of people to be trusted with a Glock. Since Gabby Giffords, a congresswoman fromArizona, was shot in the head in 2011, no federal gun-control laws have passed. The different responses reveal much about what has changed in the triangular relationship between Americans, guns and politicians between the two shootings.
时任里根总统新闻秘书的James Brady在1981年一次针对总统的失败刺杀中头部中弹，新闻报道说他死了。这份报道后被证实有点早“Brady8月4日才死亡。在枪击事件后，他接着成为了全国最成功的枪支管制拥护者。在一份以他的姓名起草的法令下，超过两百万申请军火购买许可证的申请被拒绝，原因是他们的背景审查揭露他们这些买家不是那些值得信赖的枪支持有者。自从2011年亚利桑那州的国会女议员Gabby Giffords被枪击头部后，再也没有通过的联邦枪支管制法案。不同的回应声反映出了美国国民，枪支制造商以及政客们针对两起枪击事件的三角关系变化。
Congress has passed laws that make it impossible to know for sure how many Americans own guns, but polling data suggest that the number who do has decreased since Mr Brady was shot. Rather than make it easier to pass laws, this has made it harder: small, energetic groups have more sway over Congress than ones that are larger and more diffuse. It took 12 years from the shooting of Mr Brady to the passing of background checks, so it is too early to conclude that Mrs Giffords's wounds will not eventually result in something similar, such as a ban on the kind of oversized magazines that her shooter used. But the chances of that look remote.
One reason is the pattern that follows high-profile shootings. After the murder of 20 children and six adults at a school inNewtown,Connecticutin 2012, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the biggest group representing gun owners, claims that its membership increased. This is not as strange as it seems. Shootings that make headlines lead to calls for gun control. Though these mostly fail, they provoke a pushback from pro-gun groups, which warn their members of federal plots to take their guns away. Though some states passed gun-control measures in the year after theNewtownmassacre, many others ended up with more permissive laws than before. Gun enthusiasts have had particular success with laws that allow people to carry concealed weapons, leading to a boom in sales of specially-made shirts that allow their wearers to draw quickly.
Polling by Pew suggests that three-quarters of NRA members support the expansion of background checks to cover purchases made at gun shows or online, a loophole in the Brady law. The organisation's bosses, however, take any measure that restricts access to guns to be a small step towards a final destination of anAmericadisarmed. Its scorecards are the most popular way for voters to assess a candidate's soundness on guns, so congressmen often vote with them in mind, even if that means voting against laws that most NRA members support. Such was the case with a modest bipartisan attempt at federal gun control in the wake ofNewtown. Like so many before, it failed.