TW: This article deals with sensitive topics, such as gun violence and mass shootings
Boulder. Atlanta. Two weeks. 18 dead. Since the beginning of 2021, there have been over 100 mass shootings in the US.
This comes after the U.S. had a historic high for mass shootings in 2020, with there being 611 according to the Gun Violence Archive.
The archive defines mass shootings as a shooting in which 4 or more people are shot, not including the shooter.
So, what are lawmakers doing to make sure that 2021 isn’t a repetition of 2020’s record-setting high? That’s where the highly debated topic of gun control comes in.
This isn’t a black and white issue, where one side says that all guns must be permanently banned and the other says that everyone should have a gun, it’s much more complicated than that. Some people want assault rifles to be banned, others feel that it’s their second amendment right. Some people want there to be tougher background checks, others feel that the current system is fine. What almost everyone can agree on, though, is that something needs to be done to make sure mass shootings stop.
Since the mid-March shootings, there have been two bills passed in the House of Representatives that would expand background checks on gun sales. One of the bills would lengthen the window for completing a background check before the sale of a firearm and the second would increase background checks to all sales and transfers. However, there are some exceptions for the second bill, such as transfers between family members, responding to an urgent threat or short-term transfers for hunting.
Vice President Kamala Harris has been vocal on her stance, as she called for the Senate to pass the bills.
“The point here is Congress needs to act,” Harris said on CBS This Morning on Mar. 24. “On the House side, they did. There are two bills which the president is prepared to sign, and so we need the Senate to act.”
President Joe Biden has expressed similar sentiments.
“This is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue,” he said on Mar. 23 at a press conference. He urged the Senate to approve the bills that the House already passed, saying, “It will save lives, American lives, and we have to act.”
Not only are the president and the vice president calling for the expansion of background checks, but they are also calling for the banning of assault rifles, which were used in both the Atlanta and Boulder mass shootings.
“There is no reason why we have assault weapons on the streets of a civil society,” Harris said in the same interview. “They are weapons of war.”
There was a previous assault weapons ban passed back in 1994 when Biden was a senator, but it expired in 2005.
If the Senate doesn’t approve the bills, Biden said that he is considering executive actions to make sure that there is gun control put into place. However, he and Harris want there to be long-lasting legislation put into place, not just an executive order that could be reversed when the next president goes into office.
“I’m the only one who has ever got them passed,” said Biden in a press conference on March 28, referring to the 1994 ban. “The only gun control legislation that’s ever passed is mine. It’s going to happen again.”
The bill had bipartisan support in the House, and Democratic senators are optimistic about the bill’s future in the Senate.
“I think the politics have shifted dramatically,” said Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut on Meet the Press on March 28. “I’ve gotten calls from GOP in Senate who don’t want to fight this fight any longer because the NRA’s authority is fading, the anti-gun violence movement’s impact is increasing. I think we have a chance.”
Not all Republicans are on board though, with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and John Kennedy of Louisiana saying that the Democrats are using the shootings as an excuse to limit the second amendment.
The shooting that took place in Atlanta, Georgia, killed eight people, with six of the victims being of Asian descent. The shooting in Boulder, Colorado, occurred at a grocery store and resulted in the death of 10 people. Ten days before the shooting in Colorado, a measure that would ban assault rifles in Boulder was blocked in a court due to a lawsuit backed by the National Rifle Association.
The vice president disagreed with those who argued against gun control laws, saying that they are created for the safety of the people.
“This is not about getting rid of the Second Amendment,” Harris said. “It’s simply about saying we need reasonable gun safety laws.”