We choose to believe that attitudes and views about guns and violence are changing amid demands of government action to stop more destruction and tragedy.
Last month’s murders of 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, and the mass killings of 10 mainly Black shoppers in Buffalo, New York, may have been the tipping point that finally will give politicians a modicum of courage to stand up to the gun industry and organized gun “rights” organizations such as the NRA.
Why do we think this after so many previous mass murders haven’t moved the needle? Consider last week’s national movement across the country to raise awareness about gun violence. The local event drew 120 people in downtown Santa Cruz even though it had earlier been canceled by organizers because of a lack of a valid permit.
The local gathering was part of March for Our Lives, founded in 2018 after 17 people were slaughtered at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. March For Our Lives held rallies in more than 400 cities across the United States and in Europe last week.
Then Sunday, a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators announced a tentative deal on a package of safety and gun-related measures along with billions of dollars for school security and mental health services. Among the gun provisions: incentives for states to pass and implement red-flag laws to remove firearms from potentially dangerous people; stricter gun background checks for people between the ages of 18 and 21 to include a mandatory search of juvenile justice records; and closing a loophole that would allow states to bar dating partners — not just spouses — from owning guns if they have been convicted of domestic violence.
If this agreement becomes law it would bring federal gun provisions in line with what California already has on the books. For instance, California has had a red flag law since 2016 which, according to a new study, has disarmed 58 people who were threatening a gun massacre. The study found that nearly all those whose weapons were seized under the restraining order were men. And in nearly 30% of the cases, officers used the law to seize weapons after threats of mass shootings including six students who described unleashing violence at a school.
More than 45,000 Americans died of gun violence and suicide by firearms in 2020, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 119 school shootings since 2018 – good reason to support proposed legislation in California that would make the marketing of firearms to children and those not legally allowed to possess them a civil liability and allow lawsuits against gun manufacturers.
Meanwhile, the Senate agreement is being criticized – even though, if passed, it would become the first significant piece of federal gun safety legislation in a quarter century.
But it’s a start, providing that Republicans don’t torpedo the deal. The willingness of Democrats and Republicans to negotiate and find agreement on an issue that has so deeply divided the two parties for so long is significant.
“Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities,” said the statement signed by the 20 senators.
President Biden supports the deal, while saying more federal reforms are needed, especially addressing the danger posed by assault weapons and high-capacity magazines – which should be banned or, at the very least, raise the age at which they can be purchased from 18 to 21.
Here’s how actor Matthew McConaughey, who was born in Uvalde, put it in a recent commentary in the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman:
“Depraved acts of violence, with guns as the weapon of choice, are ripping apart families, tearing at people’s faith, and shredding the fabric of our society. We have an epidemic of indiscriminate mass shootings, of parents burying their children, of inaction, and buck-passing. Saving the unnecessary loss of lives is not a partisan issue.”
The Senate deal won’t save all lives lost to gun violence, but it will save some. We expect Congress to approve it.