The public wants gun safety. So why isn’t Congress acting?
Editor’s note: This post is by our excellent intern Fadima, who brings special expertise to this painful topic. While CHN has not taken a specific position about whether the federal government should ban permitless and open carry provisions, our Public Policy Priorities as approved for 2023-2024 does support stronger gun violence prevention laws.
On June 12, 2016, the city of Orlando experienced one of the worst tragedies in recent memory when a gunman entered a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community and took the lives of 49 people. This was the second deadliest mass shooting in the United States but obviously not the last. It is not up for debate that guns have made this country increasingly unsafe. But right-wing leaders take every opportunity to allow weapons of mass destruction to proliferate. Just last month in the state of Florida, where the Pulse, Parkland, and countless other tragedies have taken place, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that would allow for permitless carry in the state.
I was a research assistant who studied the impact of the Pulse Night Club tragedy on Central Florida communities. I cannot overstate how far the impact of any single shooting extends. According to a recent study, 54 percent of Americans have personally experienced gun violence or have a family member that has. Most people in this country have been impacted in some way by gun violence, yet rarely does the government address the carnage. This is despite the fact that the American people are overwhelmingly in support of gun control, with study after study showing that both Democratic and Republican voters are in favor of common-sense laws, including universal background checks and raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21.
So: if the public is mostly in favor of gun safety, what – or more precisely, who — is stopping the government from acting? The answer is simple: a powerful, extreme right-wing movement is fighting relentlessly to oppose reasonable restrictions. The Republican voter base has become increasingly conservative over the last few years, and many lawmakers in the party depend on the support, both financial and verbal, of organizations like the NRA to bankroll their campaigns.
Despite this, Congress last year passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, with the support of 15 Republican Senators, which was signed by the President and officially became law in July 2022. The bill came on the heels of the dreadful elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. It provides significant funding for mental health services and other preventive programs. It also amends current law to mandate an enhanced background check process, including a review of juvenile mental health records for anyone 16 years or older trying to purchase a firearm. And the legislation aims to narrow the “boyfriend loophole” by prohibiting those convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime within a dating relationship from purchasing or possessing a firearm for at least five years.
Though the passing of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was very much a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough to address the rampant issue of gun violence across the country. By May 3 in the U.S. this year, 190 mass shootings had occurred.
We need Congress to pass legislation that includes universal background checks and a prohibition on permitless and open carry. Without these laws, people like the Pulse Night Club assailant, who had a history of domestic abuse, will continue to legally purchase firearms and threaten the safety of their communities. Further, open carry is often used by hate groups to intimidate innocent people and is proven to foster increased aggression. Our representatives in Congress have the responsibility to protect our communities, and the people have spoken time and again: they want gun safety, and they want it now.