“The eternal question of politics” – An insight into gun control and health care in the U.S.A.

For the last three months, some of my classmates and I have been writing news and opinion articles on the region of North America. For my last assignment I had the pleasure to interview Mr. Ryan Turner, current Madrid Chapter President of Democrats Abroad, which is a non-profit organization working in spreading the Democratic message to U.S. voters in other countries and encouraging them to vote for Democratic candidates back home. I decided to contact Mr. Turner because he is an American international relations professional who is directly connected to the Obama Administration. I was very lucky to discuss with Mr. Turner important issues for the American society such as gun control and health care system.


Left: Paula Padrino (student at Universidad Europea de Madrid – Interviewer); Right: Ryan Turner (President of Democrats Abroad in Madrid – Interviewee)


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare“, is a United States federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Mr. Turner explained that the aim of this law was to provide those 45-50 millions of uninsured Americans with health care coverage.

In order to make this possible, the government had to guarantee the health care insurance companies that they will have customers by creating a mandate (every citizen of the U.S. need to have some kind of health care coverage). This mandate is one the causes for the opposition coming from republicans, they think that this legislation violates individual rights. However, as Mr. Turner said: “How do you convince insurance companies to willingly participate in this market if they don’t have any assurance that they will have customers?”

“You shouldn’t think of health care as just a sick care, health care is not design to be used when you have already gotten cancer. Its aim is to prevent people from getting the cancer in the first place” – Mr. Turner claimed. He added that there is an open conversation and Obama tried to make people aware that there is another way to think about health care.

Mr. Ryan Turner owns a post-graduate degree in IR and Economics from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. As he has been living in Madrid for quite a while now, I asked him if the Affordable Care Act could be considered an “Europeanization” of the U.S. system. He didn’t think that the American system is very comparable to the European health care system and he argued that the health care market that has been created is still private.

He continued by saying: “It’s not private in the same way that Spain or other European countries want to privatize their health care. In Spain there is a debate on privatizing health care but really is about privatizing management of the health care system. The American system is still maintaining a private market where insurance companies compete for this pool of 50 million uninsured Americans. The European system already provides health services to everyone”.

He mentioned another difference related to culture or mentality. “For example in Spain no one debates if everyone should have access to medical care, however in the States, the debate is why should I pay for anybody’s health insurance but my own. It’s a very unique American concept. There are two different cultural ideas”. This is a very individualistic view, which he hopes it will change.

Relating this concept of the American society being more individualistic, we discussed the controversial topic of gun regulation. My first question regarding this issue was if personal security is the reason why the U.S.A. has more guns than any other industrialized nation. Mr. Turner responded that judging from the national conversation, it is not just for personal security. He also thinks that there are a lot of people who own fire guns just because it is their constitutional right. Furthermore, he explained that there is another argument that is being debated since the National Rifle Association (NRA) has transferred their role from being an advocate of gun safety to becoming an organization for promoting gun ownership, that guns make people safer: “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”.

Moreover the NRA is pushing for teachers to have guns within the classrooms. Mr. Turner thinks its too much responsibility: “We shouldn’t be expected to know how to use a gun in order to be able to conduct normal civic life in the public form”. In Georgia for example (the state which Mr. Ryan is from) you are allowed to carry a loaded rifle with a magazine and walk into a mall or a restaurant. “It is true that the fact that the gun is exposed will deter violence from around them. However, how do people around you know that you are the good guy?” – he added.

Finally, I asked Mr. Turner what kind of measures could be taken in order to prevent mass shooting, such as Newtown, from happening again. He thinks that the gun industry needs to be regulated. “There is a lot of debate about how that regulation should happen, no one is saying that you shouldn’t have the right to have a gun” He thinks that restrictions on the type of gun that you have, the quantity ammunition you can carry and background checks should be made.

As a way to end my interview we discussed the conflict of interest in the political life. When it comes to legislation, it is hard for politicians to create policies for the long-term because their interests are always short-term. it is very difficult to tackle long-term issues like health care reforms. “Its hard for us to look 30 years down the road because no one wants to do it. This is the eternal question of politics”




Paula Padrino Vilela


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