I was happy to hear the assault weapons ban passed in the House last month – thanks to Democrats – but surprised to hear more lawmakers did not support this much-needed intervention. Gun violence continues to be woven into the fabric of American life. Isn’t it time we worked together regarding a matter that affects us all?
In 2022 alone, there have been more firearm homicides in the United States per capita than all those combined in 19 high-income countries of populations of 10 million or more. It scares me when I realize how close people come to getting shot doing everyday activities like attending concerts, going to the mall, school, a Fourth of July parade, or church. The list is endless, and the death toll skyrockets.
Sadly, five Democratic representatives voted not to support this bill, and my concern is that they were playing to the gallery –mostly Republican supporters in Texas, Oregon, Wisconsin and Maine. How sad to imagine people would rather make decisions based on their hopes of re-election than for the good of all.
The leading cause of death for young adults and children has been gun violence, raising concerns for most Americans. I recall in 2012 when we received calls about a lock-down from my children’s elementary school, when an active shooter attacked Sandy Hook Elementary, only 26 miles away. The fear of not knowing if more active shooters were lurking about in more school driveways, haunts me to this day. In addition, what traumatized me as a parent of two school-age students at the time was how easily this could have been one of our own.
Over the years, as we gathered across the country each time a shooting happened, our confidence waned as not one single piece of legislation was passed to combat this pandemic of sorts.
Comparable to the death toll at Sandy Hook Elementary is the Uvalde, TX shooting, with one similarity being the weapon both shooters wielded: AR-15-style rifles. Need we emphasize how completely useless and dangerous those firearms are in the hands of civilians?
When U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy was interviewed by the Washington Post about gun-control laws, he said; “The first thing I always think about is the Sandy Hook parents because I know that they are forced to relive that day every time they see these images on the screen.” Years ago, he was one of the legislators who were vocal about the need to combat gun violence, in America – an issue that should be on the minds of everyone, regardless of political party leanings.
“I start to panic about the script we’re about to go through, like, ‘Are we going to do this again?’” he said. “Are we going to do ‘thoughts and prayers,’ and then have a burst of conversation about legislative action, and then it all disappears?”
According to reports, gun purchases doubled following the coronavirus pandemic, causing people to wonder if the isolation had something to do with this. An article from UC Davis Health states: “From March through July 2020, an estimated 4.3 million more background checks for firearm purchases occurred nationwide than would have ordinarily — an 85 percent increase. The total number of firearm purchases during this period was 9.3 million.” With an increase in guns out there in the hands of civilians, the cycle has continued.
Domestic violence and the killing of George Floyd have been identified as two of the reasons why we had a surge in the number of gun purchases during a global pandemic. This surge should be reason enough for legislators on both ends of the political spectrum to support this bill.
The first major bipartisan gun safety legislation to be passed in over 30 years was passed in June, and highlights yet again the Biden administration’s effort to curb gun violence. A part of the law expands on a restriction for people formerly convicted of domestic violence from accessing guns.
After the assault weapons ban passed in the House, President Biden said: “I said that there was still work to be done to keep our communities safe and keep dangerous firearms out of dangerous hands. When guns are the number one killer of children in America, when more children die from guns than active-duty police and active-duty military combined, we have to act.”
While looking to review the number of shootings in America, I came across the website Gun Violence Archive. A scary section known as “last 72 hours” listed multiple incidents showing, for example, 22 firearm deaths on Aug. 25 alone. Sadly, Gun violence has been normalized in America and the big question remains: What can we all do to stop this?
The assault weapons ban bill now proceeds to the Senate, where by most accounts it is doomed. Nevertheless I hope for the sake of us all that a bipartisan agreement is reached — something which ultimately protects us all.
Weruché George of Hamden is a member of the Connecticut Mirror Community Editorial Board.