Gun Violence Archive, the nongovernmental organization that monitors incidents of gun violence in the United States, reports that there have been 199 mass shootings in the country so far this year. Mass shootings are classified as such when four or more people are injured or killed. These tragedies have become so commonplace that they seem almost normal, and lead to a phenomenon in which the population is increasingly desensitized.
The United States pays a very high price for the number of firearms that circulate in its territory and the ease with which Americans can access them. The country has more individual weapons than inhabitants: One in three adults owns at least one weapon, and almost one in two lives in a house where a weapon is present.
No one has proven that the right to bear arms in self-defense has improved public safety anywhere in the world and, instead, has fostered other kinds of violence. Ensuring public safety does not mean allowing the number of weapons to increase, but rather resolving the fundamental issues which cause social conflicts and tensions in every country.
Year after year, the list of names used to baptize these massacres (Sandy Hook, Parkland, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Nashville) grows longer and longer without American authorities ever finding a appropriate response despite the many changes in administrations. Congress is divided, and Republicans have refused to pass any federal law that might infringe on the Second Amendment, which considers use and possession of weapons to be a constitutional right.*
The most recent episode of violence took place in a shopping mall in Allen, Texas. Video footage circulating on the internet shows a man getting out of a car in the parking lot of Allen Premium Outlets, opening fire on those walking nearby and killing eight people, including a five-year-old child, in addition to wounding several others.
Some states have introduced greater gun control within their borders. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, for example, has enacted a law that requires prior background checks for those who want to buy rifles and shotguns. Previously, the the state only required checks on those who sought to buy pistols. For its part, the Washington state legislature banned the sale of dozens of models of semiautomatic rifles.
In contrast, however, instead of welcoming the White House proposal to approve a law that would control the sale of combat weapons, which currently can be obtained with tremendous ease, Florida governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis signed a bill permitting Florida residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
At the federal level, President Joe Biden signed into law a rule backed by Democratic and Republican lawmakers aimed at strengthening background checks related to criminal and psychological profiles of people 18 to 21 who want to buy weapons, and to establish better control of the sale of illegal weapons and improved financing of mental health care programs.
The great irony of all this is that the right to bear arms, which originated for public safety reasons, is in fact a permanent source of danger, the cause of an endless number of tragedies and a moral challenge in a society that has been utterly torn apart by this issue.
President Biden has reiterated a request that Congress send him a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for good, and has repeated a question that ultimately highlights how impotent society is in grappling with such a divisive issue, “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”
*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.”