Once again, America has suffered more mass shootings. However, does such horror, repeated over and over again, impact our laws and those who make them?
Despite the proliferation of mass murder and our guttural opposition to it, there always seems to be room for more. The problem is so expansive, that often we can only latch onto the most galling. Be it the 25 people and an unborn child in a Texan church, 58 at a Las Vegas music festival, 49 at the Pulse Nightclub, 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary, or the 12 in a Colorado movie theater. While the shooters differ, the victims flashed on news reports differ, the grieving families differ; the same constant remains: the availability of these weapons and the laws that allow their possession.
This horrific cyclical saga continues, with the deaths of 20 people in El Paso, Texas (plus 26 wounded), and 9 in Dayton, Ohio (plus 27 wounded). The Associated Press has reported that a 21-year-old white male, Patrick Crusius, has been taken into custody in Texas and the gunman in Ohio was shot to death by responding police officers.
Several hundred volunteers for groups seeking tougher laws on guns marched on the White House and the Capitol in a demonstration at least partly inspired by the shooting in El Paso, Texas. https://t.co/7ef0SxphuH
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 4, 2019
BREAKING: Nine people in Ohio killed in the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than 24 hours, and the suspected shooter is also deceased, police say. https://t.co/jvt6QSr3DA
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 4, 2019
In response, the hashtag #GunControlNow rebirthed on Twitter, illustrating the obvious, and rehashing the desolation most Americans feel. But beyond the outrage, how much difference is enabled by tragedy?
America has more guns than it has people. We have more guns than any other country on Earth.
— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@BettyBowers) August 3, 2019
The United States leads the world in gun-related deaths, moreso than any other developed country according to the “Human Development Index.”
America comprises 4.43% of the global population, yet it has 42% of the civilian-owned guns around the world.
The most current statistics say that in 2015 alone, there were 355 mass shootings – ten shy of one daily. In fact, the problem has escalated to the point where Americans are 50% more likely to die from gun violence than road incidents, drowning, stabbing, airplane crashes, animal attacks, and forces of nature – combined.
While enough is clearly enough, the law remains stagnant.
But what does it actually say? And how much of it changes in the wake of such horror?
The Second Amendment
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that, “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.” U.S. Supreme Court rulings have since upheld that this matter is a state responsibility. However, in District of Columbia v Heller, the court struck down the laws which banned handguns, confirming that the “constitutional right” to bear arms is still a federal matter.
In the wake of the increased gun violence, and spurred by the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK, it prohibited the sale of firearms to those who:
- Are under the age of 18.
- Have criminal records.
- Are mentally ill.
- Were dishonorably discharged by the military.
This was amended by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993 – six years before the Columbine Shooting – to mandate background checks for gun ownership.
Obama’s Package of Executive Actions, 2016
In January of 2016, President Obama issued a package of executive actions to “reduce violence and make communities safer.” This included measures which requires dealers selling firearms at gun shows or online to obtain federal licenses and a $500 million funding injection into mental health care (the leading cause behind gun violence).
However, Congress failed to pass these “common-sense gun safety reforms.”
Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of Sociology, focusing on the United States’ Gun Culture shares: “… gun control seems to be on people’s minds (…) but the absence of a large cohort of Americans who want stricter gun control laws, who are passionate enough, is one big reason why the laws don’t change.”
As of 2018, there are no U.S. federal laws banning semiautomatic assault weapons (such as the AR-15), military-style .50 caliber rifles, handguns, or large-capacity ammunition magazines which can drastically increase the lethality of gun violence.
President Trump doesn’t support gun control: “I can only say this. If [Stephen Willeford during the Sutherland Springs church shooting in 2017] didn’t have a gun, instead of 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead. So that’s the way I feel about it, not going to help.” Trump was quick to dismiss the massacre as a “mental health” issue, not a “gun ownership” issue.
The recent shootings coincide with members of a gun control lobby group Gays Against Guns delivering “Bloody Valentines” to members of Congress – urging them to amend legislation. Instead, Congressional Republicans are currently pushing for a law that will weaken gun restrictions nationwide, allowing concealed weapons to be smuggled across state lines with relative ease.
However, many citizens are beginning to realize that there is no one-size-fits-all policy which will cure gun violence in their communities. Domestic violence, bypassing background checks, mass gun importation, undiagnosed mental health issues, and extremism all feed into the larger issue.
“We’re lessening the threshold of how crazy someone needs to be to commit a mass shooting,” says Austin Eubanks, a survivor of the Columbine shooting.
Although the impetus for change comes after incidents like Florida, we’ve witnessed those voices grow dim and lay forgotten, only to be resumed when many more families are shattered by grief with each new mass shooting. We’re again at the point of having that conversation, but you do have to wonder how long it can sustain itself.
Chris Murphy on the Florida school shooting: "Let me just note once again for my colleagues, that this happens nowhere else other than the U.S.A…. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else." (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/Mqyr01r9Xh
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 14, 2018