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TENS of thousands demonstrated across the US over the weekend calling for stronger gun control — described as the biggest demonstrations since the Vietnam war.
The great majority were young. Many were school children and many were black. Martin Luther King’s granddaughter was among the speakers.
This reflects a key dimension of the gun control issue in the United States.
Guns killed 38,000 in the US last year; 85,000 were injured. If you are black, you are eight times more likely to be killed. If you are black and aged below 21 you are 10 times more likely.
You are also far more likely to be shot dead by police if you are black. Last year police in the US shot 427 whites and 223 blacks — yet black people make up only 13 per cent of the population.
Just three days before this weekend’s demonstrations an unarmed black youth was shot dead by police in his grandmother’s garden in Sacramento.
Trump’s immediate reaction to the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, was to call for the arming of teachers. Three states, Florida, Oklahoma and Dakota, are already amending their legislation.
The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, the historic campaigning body for black US citizens, warns of the dangers and calls instead for the comprehensive banning of lethal weapons.
It does so because this is the only workable solution — already proven to be so in Australia. But it also opposes guns in schools because of the endemic, continuing racism in US society — a racism which extends into all areas of life including schools.
Where does Donald Trump stand? Previously he has been very closely associated with the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Like Ronald Reagan before him, Trump’s presidential bid was supported and very heavily funded by the NRA.
During the week, in face of growing demands for a ban, he caused consternation by suggesting not a ban but stronger background checks on buyers, possibly even a tighter age test.
Trump is the consummate populist and all the more dangerous for it. He will protect guns but understands the political limits.
Equally last summer he backed away from supporting white supremacists in Carolina but defended the historic significance of Confederate statues. The symbolism remains.
This underlines the deep dangers that exist within US politics. Ahead of this autumn’s mid-term elections, Trump’s approval ratings are improving and the Republicans are closing the gap on the Democrats.
Trump’s policies are designed to advance the interests of the very rich. Goldman Sachs estimate that the effect of his tax cuts will be to increase the payouts to shareholders in the top 500 US companies by 12 per cent. However, they also estimate a 6 per cent increase in wage incomes.
Admittedly the same tax cuts will decimate the federal services on which workers depend. But 6 per cent is 6 per cent. And Trump will insist that his “America First” policies have created 2.4 million new jobs and cut unemployment to 4.6 per cent.
Trump’s threat of trade war with China over steel and aluminium seeks to further consolidate this populist base.
These are trademark policies of the extreme right and parallel the rise of populist right-wing parties in the economically devastated industrial areas of the EU.
They are also signs of a capitalist system in deep trouble, now only able to resolve the inherent crisis of capital accumulation either at the expense of workers or externally at the expense of others.
Trump may (slightly) restrict access to handguns. US expenditure on weapons of mass destruction has already been increased by 12 per cent.
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