The United States has been plagued by a surge in mass shootings this year. Ironically, there’s also a concerning wave of state-level legislation that’s not only expanding gun rights but making it easier for citizens to buy and carry firearms.
Despite President Biden’s rigorous efforts to expand background checks and push Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, there’s a clear divergence in policy at the state level. Many states, predominantly led by Republicans, are introducing bills aimed at loosening restrictions on firearms. These bills often include provisions for easy purchases, ownership, carrying rights, provision of guns to teachers, and even declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries.
This alarming trend appears to be based on the misguided belief that more guns equate to safer communities, a notion that has been continuously debunked by data. Sean Holihan, the state legislative director for a renowned gun safety organization, emphasizes this point, stating, “The data shows us over and over again that that’s simply not the case.”
One of the most common types of new laws includes permitting handgun owners to carry a concealed gun without a permit, a notion that has been adopted by 17 states since 2010, including Florida, Nebraska, and South Carolina. Other states are deliberating expanding the areas where concealed weapons can be carried, from schools to college campuses, and even public transportation.
There’s a disturbing focus on schools in these gun-rights expansions. Despite the tragic Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, the solution being touted by some is to arm teachers, leading to states passing laws to that effect. However, most experts agree that this move only amplifies the risk of a shooting.
A dearth of research on the effects of such laws exists due to longstanding blocks on gun-related studies. However, the available evidence strongly suggests that the increased availability of guns corresponds to higher rates of homicide.
The growing divide in gun deaths between rural and urban counties is another significant concern, with rural areas seeing more gun deaths. Despite this, some rural sheriffs have declared themselves to be “constitutional sheriffs,” promising not to enforce any state or federal laws related to gun restrictions.
Even as this unsettling scenario unfolds, states are working to prevent data collection that could provide more insights into the relationship between guns and gun violence. This is a clear blow to transparency and public safety, hindering efforts to mitigate gun violence.
But amidst this bleak landscape, there’s a faint glimmer of hope. Recently, Texas’s House Select Committee on Community Safety passed a bill raising the age for buying certain semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, reflecting that at least some Republicans are open to gun restrictions. While these moments are infrequent, they indicate that there’s room for bipartisan dialogue on the issue of gun control.
Holihan adds, “With the way that gun violence is spreading across this country, and mass shootings are becoming more and more regular, it seems as if it’s almost a matter of time before every major leader has been somewhat affected by gun violence in some way.”
We can only hope that this growing wave of violence prompts lawmakers to take meaningful action. Until then, it remains to be seen if they will rise to the challenge or continue to place political considerations over public safety.