In the wake of recent shootings on high school and college campuses in the United States, there has been a resurgence in the push for stricter gun-control legislation. This has thus far been met with a similar rhetoric as when it has been raised in the past. Lawmakers laud the impossibility of amending the constitution and those who challenge gun owner’s right become associated with anti-American populism.
This time, however, the problem has been subverted by a major player in the arena of gun sales. It was announced last week that Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the leading retailers in gun sales in the US would immediately halt the sales of assault rifles. Dick’s has taken the onus of responsibility upon themselves and have refused to wait for the federal government to pass legislation. In a way, they saw the writing on the wall.
The question that this evokes for me is whether or not the federal government can be undermined in such a way in multiple fields. This is yet another example of such a trend which began when president Trump announced his decision to back out of the Paris Agreement. After this announcement US cities and corporations vowed to cut their emissions in order to meet the standards set forth by the agreement. This was also the case as the federal government announced new restrictions and policies regarding illegal immigrants already residing in the country. Many cities step forward as “sanctuary cities” pledging to keep its inhabitants safe and refusing to enforce the new protocols.
The trend of subversion of the federal government doesn’t seem to stop there either. In a similar vein, the work of SpaceX has been seen by some as an “outsourcing” of the US backed space program. In much watched videos of congressional hearings, SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk, has been uncompromising in his intention to go to and bring people to space despite what the government allows or is comfortable with.
If this is a trend, what does it mean for the federal government’s power? As we witness the rise of governance institutions worldwide, can it be said that the role of central government is shrinking? Are we still able to look to our national capitals as places where decisions are made and history is written? Or has that locus shifted to corporations and consumer demand?