Shootings: An American Epidemic

As with all tragedies involving shootings, politicians are resuming a debate over on gun control. There has been no concrete action in years.

The U.S. still has not recovered from the latest wave of shootings. In mid-May, 10 people were killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York; 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas; and four at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, three recent shootings that made the news.

The Gun Violence Archive has counted more than 240 mass shootings since the beginning of the year. Last weekend alone, the media reported about 10 such incidents involving fatalities and injuries. These included graduation parties in schools in South Carolina and Texas, a funeral, and a nightclub in Tennessee, among others.

President Joe Biden declared that enough is enough in a speech broadcast live on U.S. television, calling on Congress to restrict the right of access to guns by banning the sale of assault rifles — a category of weapons that in the U.S. includes automatic firearms, among other things.

Every Day

On average, at least one mass shooting occurs each day in the U.S., and the number is increasing each year. In 2019, the number of tragedies involving firearms surpassed 400, but in 2021 it reached 700.

Last week, Biden called on the nation and Congress to ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, expand background checks on potential gun buyers and introduce red-flag laws.

“This is not about taking away anyone’s guns. After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, nothing has been done,” the president emphasized, naming some of America’s greatest tragedies. “Enough. It’s time for each of us to do our part. It’s time to act. For the children we’ve lost, for the children we can save, for the nation we love, let’s hear the call and the cry.”

It’s not the first time Biden has appealed strongly for taking firm action, but without much prospect of success. Though Biden has a track record of success on gun control, for example in 1994 when he helped approve the assault weapons ban, now neither Republicans nor Democrats in the Senate have a strategy to push through similar legislation.

The Gun Lobby

The gun lobby in the U.S. is extremely powerful; it has overwhelming support from conservative politicians and voters who think that the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees them unlimited access to guns.* Even President Barack Obama was unable to overcome this after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six school employees were killed in 2012.

“[T]he fact that the majority of the Senate Republicans don’t want any of these proposals even to be debated or come up for a vote, I find unconscionable. We can’t fail the American people again,” Biden appealed the day after the hospital shooting in Tulsa, where the assailant killed four people nine days after the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas.

Draft Bill

Last week, Democrats in the House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban the sale of semi-automatic rifles to people under 21, as well as high-capacity magazines. Yet, experts say the bill has no chance of approval in the Senate.

A small coalition in the Senate under the leadership of Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut took action. “We must overcome the gridlock in Congress. We need to do this with a bill that will save lives, not a bill that we can just put on the record that it was passed,” Murphy said.**

They are considering options like encouraging states to pass red flag laws, which will let family members, police officers and health care workers take safety steps, such as petitioning a court to temporarily prevent someone who may pose a danger to those around or themselves from accessing guns. Other measures include a review of school safety protocols, and tightening control on potential gun buyers and how guns are stored in private homes. The success of these measures depends on finding 60 votes in the Senate, which will be hard with an even split on party lines and Republican senators opposed to any legislation restricting gun access.

1st State

Democratic legislators in New York have taken concrete steps. They passed a law that prohibits people under 21 from buying semi-automatic weapons. This is the first state to take concrete action after the recent shootings, and it’s a state that includes New York City, one of the largest cities in the country.

But there is already talk about an epidemic of deadly gun incidents.

While Congress has been unable to agree on regulating gun possession, Canada has acted quickly, a significant development as Canada is one of the countries with the highest percentage of gun ownership.

Canada, just like the U.S., has a system with two dominant political parties. The social and cultural divisions are similar, with the extreme right wing growing in strength in both countries. Access to arms has also been a contentious issue in Canada, and yet Canadian legislators have been able to tackle problems more effectively.

Experts say this is because Canada’s political system is less complicated than the American one, where one bill must be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

*Editor’s note: The Second Amendment provides: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

**Editor’s note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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