The coronavirus pandemic has taken an unimaginable toll: over 546,000 Americans have died in little over a year.
As more Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine and states ease their social distancing and masking restrictions, though, life is slowly starting to return to normal—or as close to normal as we might get, post-pandemic.
There were seven mass shootings across six states in seven days last week.
On March 16th, eight people, including six Asian women, were killed in Georgia, when a White man opened fire at three different spas. And yesterday, ten people were killed in Colorado, when a man with an automatic weapon opened fire at a local supermarket.
In between those horrific shootings, though, were five other mass shootings in America. 28 people were injured in shootings in California, Oregon, Texas and Pennsylvania. Two died and another victim is in critical condition.
Those shootings didn't make national news, likely because of the relatively low death toll.
But here's the thing: even one death is too many. The million-plus American families who have lost a loved one to gun violence know this all too well.
Hours after Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa killed ten people ranging in age from 20 to 65 in that Colorado supermarket, President Biden addressed the nation and urged lawmakers to pass gun control legislation.
"I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save the lives in the future, and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act," Biden said.
The push for gun control legislation
The president pointed to two bills that passed the House this month that would "close loopholes in the background system." Biden urged the Senate to quickly pass both.
One calls for expanded background checks on individuals seeking to purchase or transfer firearms, while the other bill seeks to close the "Charleston loophole," a gap in federal law that lets gun sales proceed without a completed background check if three business days have passed.
"These are bills that received votes with both Republicans and Democrats in the House. This is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue that will save lives, American lives. And we have to act. We should also ban assault weapons in the process," said Biden.
Biden also called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, pointing to a similar law that he helped pass in 1994 as a senator from Delaware. The law phased out in 2004 under a 10-year provision.
"It was the law for the longest time," Biden said. "And it brought down these mass killings. We should do it again."
A new bill sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) would revive the assault weapons ban.
"It's been 17 years since the original Assault Weapons Ban expired, and the plague of gun violence continues to grow in this country," said Senator Feinstein. "To be clear, this bill saves lives. When it was in place from 1994-2004, gun massacres declined by 37 percent compared with the decade before. After the ban expired, the number of massacres rose by 183 percent.
"Assault weapons are designed for a single purpose – to kill as many people as possible in as short an amount of time as possible. That's why they are the weapon of choice for mass shooters and domestic terrorists. They are weapons of war and do not belong in our communities," said Representative Cicilline. "Banning these weapons will make our cities and towns safer and more secure and help to reduce gun deaths."
The opposition to gun legislation
Opponents of further gun legislation argue that new laws won't deter shootings.
"Every time there's a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders," Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). "If you want to stop these murders, go after the murderers," he added.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) believes that the recent rise in violence stems from calls to defund the police.
Guns in America, by the numbers
- Gun laws vary by state in America. In recent years, 13 Democratic-controlled states have restricted gun access, while 14 Republican states have loosened their gun laws.
- More than 100 Americans are shot and killed each day. Over 230 more are wounded.
- Not including suicides, 19,380 people died by gun violence in 2020, up from 15,440 in 2019.
- Mass shootings have risen since 2014.
- 39.7 million guns were purchased in the last year, marking the highest sales total in at least two decades.
- Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world's guns.
Where do we go from here?
It's unclear if any gun legislation will pass the Senate. It's unlikely that Democrats will secure 60 votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster.
Here's where that leaves us, then: with no clear path forward, as gun purchases, gun deaths and mass shootings are on the rise.
If you're feeling disheartened, we urge you to contact your legislators and let them know where you stand on gun legislation. If you'd like to channel your energy into activism, we suggest reaching out to groups like Moms Demand Action and Everytown.