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"america through a lens" by Sarah Rashid.

We can’t wait for another mass shooting before stricter gun control legislation is passed

For quite some time now, gun control has been an issue demanding attention at a national level. On Mar. 31, 2021, in an attempt to address this growing gun violence crisis, President Joe Biden announced a new infrastructure plan, one meant to include funding for the prevention of community violence and other gun control related issues. Around a month later, on Apr. 8, he issued several executive orders meant to limit untraceable gun circulation.

While the Community Justice Action Fund has called President Biden’s action a, “historic investment in proactive community based solutions,” it remains insufficient to solve the horrifying state of modern gun violence in the US. 

The three mass shootings in March are just the most recent examples of leadership failure to put aggressive gun control measures in place. In Boulder, Colorado, just days before 10 people were killed in a shooting, Judge Andrew Hartman lifted the city’s ban on the sale and ownership of assault weapons similar to the one the gunman used.  

Gun control policy is often highly scrutinized and politicized in the immediate aftermath of any shooting that attracts media attention. Our political figures promise reform to gun control systems, and while some efforts are put forth, too often are they forgotten when Congress cannot come to a bipartisan agreement.

It is a trapping cycle, starting over only when the next mass shooting occurs. One cannot help but ask, will any policy actually make a difference, or will Americans, students especially, continue to be the victims of this violence because of political divisions?

Democrats narrowly control both the Executive and Legislative Branch, but that is no guarantee for quick and essential change. In order for any gun control legislation to pass, the Democrats, who hold 50 seats in the Senate, would need an additional 10 Republican senators to join them.

While money towards violence prevention programs is an important step forward, assuming President Biden’s plan will even pass in both bodies of Congress, further action needs to be taken swiftly for the plan to be considered effective. 

According to a study published in the “American Journal of Criminal Justice,” the most commonly targeted places for mass shootings are schools, followed by open-spaces like restaurants or malls and then religious institutions. As COVID-19 vaccines present the possibility of a return to normal life soon, an increase in shootings in locations such as these, has everyone, students especially, worried.

Some politicians have pushed for meticulous universal background checks, but Boulder is a prime example of why that would not be enough. The gunman responsible for the shooting passed all the background checks required for purchasing a gun in the city and legally bought the weapon after the assault weapons ban was lifted. The gun used in the shooting which while legally considered a pistol, had been adjusted to act like a rifle. 

In order to prevent another deadly shooting, President Biden must make the issue a priority not just now, but for his entire term. He must act while the horrors of the shootings are still fresh in the minds of Americans, but continue past that point. A first step could be banning assault weapons like the AR-15.

Research shows that approximately 24.6 percent of mass shootings have involved an assault weapon, and although critics might point out that banning them would not be nearly as effective as many think, banning assault weapons would still likely reduce these shootings. 

Some of the most well-known mass shootings in recent years have involved AR-15 style assault rifles or other assault weapons, such as the Sandy Hook School Shooting, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Tree of Life Synagogue shooting and the Las Vegas music festival shooting.

Due to the concerning rise of school shootings, most students are being required to practice active shooter drills, which have been linked to an increase in stress and mental health issues in the current generation. Not only could stricter gun policies prevent death, but also trauma and severe anxiety for those, like students, who have experienced growing fears for their safety in any sort of public setting.

Offering Americans a solid ban of assault weapons may be a first step to inspiring hope for further change on gun control. Alongside Biden’s creation of complex plans to address community violence and more, a sign of concrete progress is needed to show it is possible to break from the mass shooting cycles we see reemerging. By finding a place of common ground, where both political parties can agree, it might create space for focus to be directed on the deeper gun control issues on which leaders remain divided.