United States President Joe Biden has urged lawmakers to act after a series of shootings in major cities killed at least 10 people, underscoring the country’s ongoing struggle with gun violence.
In a White House statement released on Tuesday, Biden called on Republican legislators to join him in putting forward “commonsense reforms”, including a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks and an end to legal immunity for gun manufacturers.
“Over the last few days, our nation has once again endured a wave of tragic and senseless shootings in communities across America — from Philadelphia to Fort Worth, Baltimore to Lansing, Wichita to Chicago,” Biden said.
The wave of shootings began on Friday, as the US embarked on the start of a long holiday weekend, culminating on Tuesday with Independence Day.
On Friday night in Chicago, Illinois, one person was killed and three others wounded in a sidewalk shooting. Then, early on Sunday, two more mass shootings broke out: one at a club in Wichita, Kansas, that wounded nine and another at a block party in Baltimore, Maryland, that left two dead and 28 injured.
The violence continued on Monday, when gunfire in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania killed five and hurt two children. A shooting that same evening in Fort Worth, Texas, killed three after a neighbourhood festival. And in the early hours of Tuesday, an altercation at a party in Lansing, Michigan, led to a shooting that injured five.
In his statement, Biden said the “epidemic of gun violence” in the US is “tearing our communities apart”.
The US has some of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world and experiences mass shootings at a frequency not seen in peer countries.
So far in the first six months of this year, the Gun Violence Archive has catalogued 346 mass shootings in the US, defined as incidents of gun violence in which at least four victims were injured or killed. Fifteen of those cases happened in the last week, with 16 people killed.
In Tuesday’s statement, Biden paid tribute to the lives lost at Highland Park, Illinois, one year ago, when a gunman opened fire on an Independence Day parade, killing seven.
“In mere moments, this day of patriotic pride became a scene of pain and tragedy,” Biden wrote.
But while the White House has called for bipartisan action in response to the violence, conservative lawmakers have largely resisted restrictions to firearm access, citing the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.
In Florida, for example, a law went into effect on July 1 allowing residents to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, repealing the training and licensing previously required.
And conservative justices on the Supreme Court have called into question restrictions on gun permits in left-leaning states like New York, deeming some unconstitutional.
One year ago, I signed into law the most significant gun safety reform bill in decades: the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
We acted for the families that have lost souls to an epidemic of gun violence – and our law has saved lives.
But our work is far from done. pic.twitter.com/zPNAwjoNkb
— President Biden (@POTUS) June 25, 2023
Conservative lawmakers argue that access to firearms allows people to protect themselves and that efforts to restrict guns make no difference in overall rates of violence. Pro-gun lobbying groups, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), remain a substantial force in US politics.
In June 2022, Congress took the rare step of passing a bipartisan gun safety bill that included an expansion of background checks and restrictions on weapons sales to those convicted of domestic abuse.
While Biden hailed the bill as “monumental”, he acknowledged that it left thornier issues such as assault weapon restrictions and mandatory background checks on firearms sales untouched.