The mass shootings in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, TX are the clear results of the violent world the gun lobby has helped to create and lawmakers have enabled. Americans are outraged and the Senate must act. Our elected officials owe us more than thoughts and prayers—it’s time to enact common-sense solutions. Here are six meaningful things Congress can do to prevent senseless shootings.
States with laws requiring background checks for all gun sales—by point-of-sale check and/or permit—were associated with 10 percent lower homicides rates.
Everytown for Gun Safety. “Update Background Check Laws”. Everytown for Gun Safety. (2020). https://bit.ly/3hVv0xl
Nobody should be allowed to purchase a gun without passing a background check first. Background checks are the foundation of any comprehensive gun violence prevention strategy. Current federal law requires that licensed dealers run background checks on gun sales, but unlicensed sellers—including those selling guns online or at gun shows—are not required to. That means people with felony convictions, domestic abuse restraining orders, or who are otherwise prohibited from owning a gun can avoid a background check by buying a gun from a an unlicensed stranger, with no questions asked.
In 32 percent of mass shootings with four or more people killed, the shooter exhibited dangerous warning signs before the shooting.
Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, “Mass Shootings in the United States,” March 2023, https://everytownresearch.org/mass-shooting-report/.
In many instances of gun violence, there are clear warning signs that the shooter posed a serious threat before the shooting. Extreme Risk laws, sometimes referred to as “Red Flag” laws, create a way to intervene before warning signs become tragedies. These laws allow immediate family members and law enforcement to show evidence and petition a court for an order for the temporary removal of guns from dangerous situations.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the federal law enforcement agency responsible for enforcing our nation’s gun laws and keeping us safe. Without strong leadership, rogue gun dealers and gun manufacturers have evaded regulations and oversight as gun violence devastates our communities. If senators are serious about reducing gun crime, they should confirm President Biden’s nominee, Steve Dettelbach, as ATF Director. Anything less is an intentional failure to provide this law enforcement agency with the leadership necessary to enforce the laws on the books and keep Americans safe.
Mass shootings that involved an assault weapon account for 25 percent of all mass shootings deaths and more than three-quarters of all injuries in mass shootings with four or more people killed.
Assault weapons are exceptionally deadly firearms commonplace in mass shootings. They are generally capable of firing far more bullets, far faster than manual-action hunting rifles. Regulating assault weapons can prevent mass shooting injuries and deaths. We need to take a long, hard look at how assault weapons are made, marketed, and sold to keep these weapons of war off of our streets and out of the hands of violent extremists.
Federal law sets a dangerously low minimum age for buying firearms. The law prevents anyone under 21 from buying a handgun from a gun dealer, but teenagers and reckless youth have no business buying an assault weapon. We should raise the age to purchase these weapons across the country and make it clear that handguns and assault weapons cannot be possessed until a person turns 21.
Gun lobby-backed politicians passed a law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), that shields bad actors within the gun industry from being held accountable for dangerous products or irresponsible business practices that harm people and endanger public safety. PLCAA gives the gun lobby’s corporate donors special protections that are not afforded to other industries. It’s time for the gun industry to face the same kind of accountability as every other manufacturer of consumer products for its role in the gun violence crisis—and lose its special protection.