Magazine Opinions Volume 70, Issue 8

United States continues never ending gun violence

By Cam Lippincott

Graphic By Yiying Zhang

America’s tragic epidemic of mass shootings seems to have no end. This year we have already seen the saddening events that occurred in Boulder, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia accompanied by many more. The bleak feeling I got when I learned of these came with a sense of deja vu. I cannot remember a year without a mass shooting. I also cannot remember meaningful action to solve this uniquely American problem, and it doesn’t look like I will this year.

President Biden called for Congress to ban the sale of assault weapons, require background checks for all gun sales, end several loopholes to buy guns, and more. While Biden’s policies respond to gun violence, they have zero chance to pass in Congress despite Democrats having control of both the Senate and House of Representatives. The reason for this is the Senate filibuster, which is a Senate rule that requires 60 yes votes to pass any legislation. This excludes an exception known as budget reconciliation, which allows certain legislation to be passed with a simple majority that can be used three times a year. The easy way to get past the filibuster would be to get rid of it with a simple majority of 50 yes votes, but conservative Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have made it clear that they will not get rid of the filibuster for any reason. By not supporting the elimination of the filibuster, these senators are not only destroying the parties’ chances to govern, they are also hurting their re-election chances in 2024. It’s time for senators to stop caring about Senate traditions and start trying to better their constituents’ lives.

The last meaningful gun legislation passed was the assault weapons ban in 1994 which was signed by then-President Bill Clinton. Unfortunately, the law expired after 10 years and nothing has passed since and nothing will likely pass any time soon due to the Senate filibuster.

Since Congress cannot act, President Biden has taken some executive action to help prevent gun violence. In a statement made by the white house on April 7th, he ordered the justice department to “issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of ‘ghost guns.’… issue a proposed rule to make clear when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act… publish model ‘red flag’ legislation for states.” This is all good, but without Congressional support the US will not see sweeping changes to gun laws.

Most polling suggests that a majority of Americans support gun control. A recent poll by Ipsos shows that 65% of Americans support stricter gun laws, and 61% support increased background checks. But due to the undemocratic nature of the Senate, we will likely never see this pass.

At the state level, California already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. California has a ban on assault weapons, background checks for weapon and ammunition purchases, a magazine capacity restriction, and more. California also has the 7th lowest death rate of all 50 states, showing a correlation that gun control works. The state with the lowest rate is Massachusetts which has nearly the same laws as California but a much smaller population.

In response to calls for gun control, Republicans in Congress usually give the same braindead response as they do for everything else and try to make the problem worse. Often they will say Democrats are using tragedies as ways to pass legislation, acting as if the government should do nothing in response to horrible events and let gun violence continue with no roadblocks. Some of the more evil and insane Republicans suggest that we have too many gun laws and that a country with the highest rate of guns per capita has too few guns. Some also claim that gun control hurts American freedoms but I think one’s freedom to not get mowed down in a shopping mall is more important.

Gun control should not just apply to the average citizen. We need a full-scale demilitarization of police forces around the country. Police in America kill people at an absurd rate compared to other countries. According to the prison policy initiative, in 2019 the police in America killed 33.5 people per 10 million, the next closest country was Canada with 9.8 people per 10 million. There is no reason police should have weapons that allow them to kill anyone that makes them feel “threatened.” We cannot truly end gun violence in this country without ending police violence.