We the People are Ready for Real Gun Reform
By Julio Olivencia
June 4, 2021
It would appear as if the scourge of mass shootings in the U.S. has returned after a hiatus. Headlines fill my social media feeds, once again, telling of violence across the nation. But, according to a New York Times article, the violence isn’t coming back at all – it never left. The Times reports that there were 600 mass shootings in 2020 compared to 417 in 2019. A mass shooting is defined as a shooting where four or more people are wounded or killed, excluding the shooter. There have been 147 mass shootings so far this year, with 11 rising to the level of mass murder, where 4 or more people are killed, excluding the shooter. It seems there was simply less coverage of the shootings last year, presumably because of COVID-19 and civil rights coverage dominating the news cycle.
More appalling than the sheer regularity at which these events occur is the complete inaction of the government to do anything about it. Sure, President Joe Biden signed an executive order containing six actions towards stemming the violence, but these half measures will not make much of a difference. His executive order fails to address universal background checks, licensing requirements, or red flag laws, outside of “model” legislation states can adopt if they choose. That is because executive orders can only do so much. What is needed is comprehensive gun control legislation at the state and federal level. Laws requiring universal background checks on all gun sales, red flag laws, and licensing requirements for certain firearms, like pistols, would be a start. Unfortunately, some states are moving in the opposite direction. Tennessee removed the license requirement for carrying pistols in public and the Texas House has moved to do the same. These laws make carrying a pistol in public even easier and remove any training requirements that come with licensure in other states, such as Connecticut and New York.
To be clear, I’m not inherently anti-gun. In fact, I’m a gun owner myself. I find shooting to be therapeutic and an exercise in patience and precision. In many ways it is a meditative endeavor. As a law-abiding gun owner, I respect laws that are meant to place a reasonable burden on gun purchases. I believe background checks, training, and licensure are reasonable. I was happy to go through the long and stringent process of obtaining a concealed carry permit when I lived in New York state because it meant there was a real vetting process. If you are in such a rush to arm yourself that you think having a vetting process in place infringes on your right to bear arms, maybe you should reassess why you want to own a gun in the first place.
Universal background checks will surely place a burden on private gun sellers, but shouldn’t they want to know if the person they are selling to can legally possess a gun? Gun laws are only as good as the enforcement and requiring background checks is one way toward that enforcement. I also believe red flag laws are reasonable. In addition to law enforcement, family members and mentors should be encouraged to report a loved one who is demonstrating unusual or disturbing statements or behavior. Until an investigation is done, the person seeking a gun should be temporarily barred from owning or purchasing a firearm. Too many times the shooter in these cases was “known to law enforcement.” Family, mentors, and friends reported these individuals because they were thought to be a danger to themselves or others yet nothing stopped them from legally purchasing or borrowing a firearm and wreaking havoc.
The longer we go without sensible gun reform, the more incidents of violence will occur. It’s not enough for a state to enact laws on its own, as people will just go to neighboring states to circumvent local laws. The federal government needs to step in and legislate the issue once and for all. They need to attempt to mitigate the carnage unfolding all across the country and do what they can to make sure guns don’t get into the wrong hands. The majority of Americans support tougher gun laws including expanded background checks. The rub lies in the breakdown–most Republican voters do not. Until we as a nation decide to have a constitutional convention and really ponder the future of the Second Amendment, irresponsible gun ownership is here to stay.
# # #
Julio Olivencia is a former Account Associate at The Narrative Project, who is now pursuing a PhD in Communications at Georgia State University. As a contributing writer, Julio brings his communication experience in government, nonprofit, and the private sector to his work. Prior to The Narrative Project, Julio worked as a reporter, a public affairs Airman in the New York Air National Guard, and a public relations coordinator with a nonprofit healthcare center in New York.