In less than 24 hours, between Aug. 3 and 4, 34 people were killed in mass shootings, and as such incidents continue to mount, more Americans are desperate for their leaders to act to reduce gun violence and help keep our communities safe.
We feel a sense of urgency and frustration as we remember the words of Samantha Fuentes, a Parkland survivor who was struck by a bullet. At a “March for Our Lives” rally held in Washington in 2018, she said, “Our mission is simple and our ambitions are unbeatable. Let’s keep the guns out of the hands of the wrong people, and keep them in the hands of the safe and reasonable. So either you can join us, or be on the side of history who prioritized their guns over the lives of others.”
This weekend, gun safety supporters across the country are staging “Recess Rallies” to urge Senate leaders to return from the August recess to vote on two background check bills that were passed by the House in February, but have been blocked in the Senate.
In the chart below is information about where to go this weekend to advocate for change and express your outrage at the intransigence, excuse-making and influence-buying that perpetually stand in the way of meaningful gun safety legislation, especially at the national level.
On Aug. 24, one of the signature gun safety laws approved by legislators in February is scheduled to go into effect in the state of New York. The red flag law allows designated individuals, such as law enforcement, family members and school officials, to ask courts to temporarily block someone from buying or owning a gun who is shown to pose a potential risk.
New York is far from the only state to pass red flag laws — a total of 17 states and the District of Columbia have done so in one form or another. New York state’s progress, which was years in the making and only occurred after Democrats took control of the state Senate on Jan. 1, is a positive sign of what’s possible when there’s the political will to pass gun bills.
We’re not naive about how politicized the issue of gun violence is and how complex it is to formulate changes. But after the spate of recent mass shootings of innocent citizens, maybe just maybe, the back-to-back tragedies will be the catalysts.
There is talk that Senate leaders in Washington are resolved finally to pass a bill that incentivizes states for passing red flag bills like New York’s. That’s the impact national outrage, fear and disgust over years of inaction can have.
The bar for addressing gun violence has been set so low. A month after the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the GOP-led House passed the STOP School Violence Act, providing $75 million in annual grants for training school staff in crisis response and for making physical modifications such as metal detectors intended to fortify schools. Avoiding any head-on solution to curbing gun violence, the measure amounted to nothing more than putting a Band-Aid on a national health epidemic.
Every single day in our country, nearly 100 people are killed by guns. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 23,000 people died by firearm suicide in 2016. If that’s not the definition of a national public health emergency, what is? But gaining a full understanding of where, why and how this carnage is affecting us is virtually impossible as the government prohibits research on gun violence as a public health threat. Talk about avoidance.
The passage of New York’s gun safety bills marked a victory for gun safety advocates in the state. The six measures included a ban on bump stocks, prohibiting teachers from carrying guns in schools and extending the waiting period for gun buyers who do not pass instant background checks. Notably, according to legal experts, New York’s version of the red flag law improves on versions either passed or under consideration in other states. The law sets a legal standard of requiring clear and convincing evidence that there is cause to believe the person in question will harm himself or others. This feature, seen as affording better protection of an individual’s right to due process, could be a key to the red flag legislation that now seems to be gaining momentum in the Senate.
Even if it passes and is signed into law, this single measure would fall well short of a comprehensive approach needed to put a dent in the number of annual gun fatalities and injuries.