Written by Joey Slusher
The Pandemic has changed just about every facet of American life. From going to the store, visiting family for the holidays, or just trying to go to school, nothing has been the same since last March. One of the less noticed but certainly welcomed changes which the country saw during this long year was the sudden decline of mass shootings.
Prior to March of 2020, mass shootings were a constant occurrence in the U.S., with headlines reporting on them at least every week. USA Today reports that there were 417 mass shootings in 2019. People involved included students, concert goers, and people shopping at Walmart.
Since the shootings in Boulder, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia this past week, many have been reminded of this grim piece of the “normal” American year. Many news outlets begin addressing the situation in Colorado by discussing the apparent lull in mass shootings in the midst of the pandemic. In reality though, 2020 saw a peak in mass shooting incidents and gun violence in general with the number rising all the way 611 incidents total.
The reality is, and rightly so, the Covid-19 crisis, the Black Lives Matter movement, the election, and Capitol riots have captivated the American media. It is only now as millions are being vaccinated and Covid restrictions are slowly being taken away, that the normal news of mass shootings can return back to full public view.
The shootings’ return to the spotlight have brought with them the same old debates which the country has been having since the Clintons were in the White House. In Congress, both parties have reverted to their typical arguments.
Democrats, including President Biden, have called for “Common Sense” gun reforms, strengthening background checks, and shoring up rules which make it easier for unfit people to buy guns. Republicans have fought back by stating that Democrats always choose to politicize victim’s deaths, and that they should wait for a more appropriate time to begin the debate on gun reform. On top of this, they argue that gun reform has proven ineffective and only creates defenseless people in a country with heavily armed criminals.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has become a zealous advocate for gun reform since his state suffered the Sandy Hook shooting where 28 people were killed, including a number of young children. He argues that inaction from Congress in this moment makes them “complicit” in the next mass shooting and wonders if now is not the time, then when will we be able to act on reform.
That said, the Democrats hold a slim majority in Congress, which relies heavily on the loyalty of all its members. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), a conservative member of his party, has already expressed that he would not support gun reforms. This makes any substantive changes unlikely, as without his one vote, the Democrats would require aid from a Republican, something which is even more unlikely.
This means that, at least for now, the rise in mass shootings is likely going to continue. In just these last three months, there have already been 107 of these tragedies. This beats out the numbers of both 2020 and 2019 for the first quarter of the year and shows a depressing trend that unlikely to change without action.