Our nation is suffering from what can best be described as a mass shooting epidemic. According to data from Gun Violence Archive, more than 600 mass shootings have occurred in the United States over the past 11 months. That’s a startling average of almost two mass shootings per day — defined as an event in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.
We don’t hear about all of the shootings, but we hear about many of them. And we recoil in horror each time another incident leads to the senseless loss of precious life prompted by yet another disturbed person who got legal access to a gun. Just last month, there was the Nov. 13 shooting at the University of Virginia in which three students died. On Nov. 19, five people died in a shooting in a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub. And on Nov. 22, a Walmart employee killed six people in one of the company’s stores in Chesapeake, Va. Thanksgiving was the six-month mark of the killing of 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, which came 10 days after a supermarket killing spree in Buffalo, N.Y., that left 10 people dead.
We have pleaded before in this space for much-needed gun-control legislation to be enacted without impinging precious citizen rights under the Second Amendment. And we have questioned why anyone not in the military or law enforcement has the need for automatic weapons or other repeat fire gun enhancements. We were encouraged by the gun-safety legislation that President Joe Biden signed into law last June — the first major gun-safety legislation passed by Congress in nearly 30 years. But if that legislation is working, it seems to be doing so very slowly.
The new gun-safety law includes incentives for states to pass red-flag laws that allow courts to take away weapons from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. The law also prevents those convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun. And it expands background checks on people between the ages of 18 and 21 who want to buy a gun.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have red-flag laws. But the mere existence of the laws does not prevent killings. Killings will only be prevented when the laws are enforced. Unfortunately, surveys indicate that few states actually make use of their red-flag laws — some because law-enforcement officials are reluctant to and some because of a lack of awareness of the laws or the lack of a clear understanding of how to implement them. Neither reason is acceptable, particularly since nearly two-thirds of Americans support the new gun law.
The next steps are clear: Elected officials and law-enforcement personnel need to familiarize themselves with their state’s red-flag laws and enforce them. And if they don’t, reluctant elected officials should be voted out and unwilling law-enforcement personnel need to be replaced. We cannot tolerate the continued tyranny of senseless gun violence.