By: Clare Buchanan
Image via Canvas8
As the pandemic begins to wind down in the United States, there seems to be a rise of gun violence across the country. However, what seemed like a year of silence when it comes to mass shootings, was actually not a silent year at all. In 2020 alone, there were 600 mass shootings in the US. The media failed to cover it due to the pandemic that was sweeping the nation. As of April, only three months into the new year, there have already been 146 mass shootings in the US. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as “an incident that leaves at least four people shot, wounded, or killed, excluding the gunman.” From January to the beginning of April, at least 584 people have been killed due to gun violence in America. And that is assuming that only four people were killed at each shooting, excluding violence seen at the hands of the police and not counting other types of shootings not logged into the data. The fact that this many people are dying within months due to gun violence should be concerning. Unfortunately, Americans are so unfazed by gun violence, it becomes shocking to hear that other countries, for example the UK and Canada, do not have this issue.
To be frank, the issue is getting worse. The number of mass shootings in the US is rising each year, and some might wonder how many more lives this epidemic of violence will take until our government wakes up and makes some changes. A lawmaker would have to be blind to ignore that the issue of gun violence intertwines with other issues in this country, including mental health, racism, and misogyny. This was apparent on March 16th of this year, when eight people, six of them being Asian women, were shot and killed by a white man who gunned down three spas. This incident coincided with the rise in hate crimes America has seen on Asian Americans. Nearly a week later, ten people were killed while trying to buy groceries in Boulder, Colorado. The next week, on March 31st, four people were killed in an office building in Orange, California, including a young child. When mass shootings begin to become a weekly occurrence, it is clear something needs to be done. The American people are dying. We need gun reform.
For the youngest generation of Americans, Gen Z, school shooter drills have become a customary aspect of the school experience, beginning with the rise of school shootings such as the Sandy Hook shooting. Many remember teachers telling them to hide under desks and stay away from the windows and doors, as if America was a war zone. Our schools were turned into prisons, and some Americans suggested that teachers be armed. Twenty children were shot and killed while trying to learn and what was the American people’s response? More guns. After the Sandy Hook shooting that left twenty-seven people dead, subscriptions for admission into the National Rifle Association soared. In America, the solution to gun violence is more guns.
In the UK, where mass shootings are not as common as they are here in the US, there are 6.5 guns per every 100 people. In the United States, there are 101 guns per every 100 people. Logically, it seems as if perhaps fewer guns would result in less gun violence. But, Americans are quick to defend their right to carry. Many conservatives in America sleep with one eye open because they are afraid the “radical” left is going to take away their guns. To them, the answer to gun violence is simple: the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is with a good guy with a gun.
In an articulate, witty, and entertaining special for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Jordan Klepper explores this theory by testing it out himself. As can be seen in this special, it is extremely easy for any living and breathing human being in America to get a handgun license. So easy in fact, this might account as to why unstable individuals across the country are able to purchase such weapons and commit mass murder rather easily.
Klepper explores the “good guy with the gun” phenomena by training for active shooter incidents at an abandoned elementary school in Texas with some law enforcement agents. Klepper demonstrated that in most active shooter incidents, having a “good guy” armed and ready to defend only makes the situation more complicated, for when law enforcement arrive at the scene, they are not immediately able to differentiate between a shooter and a potential helper. According to the FBI’s recent report on mass shootings, only 3% of mass shootings are stopped successfully by a victim, and in only a small portion of those cases was that victim armed. It seems like this “good guy with a gun” heroic trope is actually a myth.
So that leaves the question of gun reform. If we as a country cannot stop mass shootings by arming our teachers and every American who can pull a trigger, how do we move forward? What needs to be done? How is it to be done?
According to the White House, the Biden-Harris administration has been passing laws to address gun violence immediately. In March, Congress passed two bills that close loopholes in background checks. Biden is also known to be an advocate for the Violence Against Women Act, which makes sure abusers, stalkers, and “boyfriends” who have a history in a court of law of violence, are not able to own a firearm. The Biden administration is now working on getting Congress to pass the “red flag” national law that will “allow family members or law enforcement to petition for a court order temporarily barring people in crisis from accessing firearms.” These laws will also pave the way for states to pass their own “red flag” laws, making sure the people buying firearms are stable enough to do so.
In April, the Biden administration also made strides to stop the rapid increase in “ghost guns”, which are kits criminals can buy to assemble their own firearm that if found at a crime scene, cannot be traced due to the lack of serial number. This administration is also targeting arm braces, which is a tool the Boulder shooter used which makes shooting more accurate, but still allows a pistol to be concealed. The Justice Department now will also release a yearly report on firearm trafficking, led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) branch.
It is clear the Biden-Harris Administration has not only listened to the youth, but people in America who have been directly affected by gun violence. Mass shootings are in some ways, only the tip of the iceberg. Gun violence can be seen in other forms like domestic violence and suicide. The safety of the American people is not the same as the right to carry a gun. American settlers carried guns from the beginning so they could colonize, imperialize, and terrorize. Now it is almost 300 years later and we as a country have still not addressed this. It is time to move on, and turn this toxic nationalism into love for our country with gun reform laws.
Written by Clare Buchanan