Updated: Jul 9, 2021
Many Americans decided to release pent-up energy from a quiet 2020 by almost literally exploding this 2021 Fourth of July weekend. Sadly, the weekend saw a huge spike in gun violence, with at least 150 people killed by gun violence in more than 400 shootings across the country. It is a dark reminder that as life returns to normal, so does gun activity.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, during the first half of 2021, gunfire has killed over 8,000 people. Most of these tragedies unfold in homes or community streets, far from the glare of the national spotlight. They disproportionately affect communities of color, including young children.
Gun sales spiked during the pandemic, and an increase in gun-related incidents followed the murder of George Floyd. Access to guns has become ridiculously easy—and statistics have shown that states with higher rates of mass shootings are the ones that have the most relaxed gun safety laws.
Experts point to several factors for the rise in gun violence – the stress of physical health and financial challenges due to the pandemic, harder-to-access mental health services, and tensions between minority communities and the police, to name a few. The surge shows little sign of letting up; 2021 is on a track to becoming the deadliest in the last two decades.
The problem is deeply rooted in our culture.
Throughout history, people have used fear, intimidation, threats, torture, lynching, and weapons to get what they want and remain in control. It is the result of a system we created, and it will continue until we change the system.
There is a direct correlation between our lenient gun laws and the increase in gun violence. While stricter gun laws cannot prevent all tragedies, they would have prevented some of our post-pandemic incidents and/or minimized the number of casualties.
Sensible gun control legislation is overwhelmingly supported by most of our citizens and political leaders. Earlier this year, the Democratic-led House passed two bills that would expand and strengthen the use of background checks for firearm purchases. The measures stalled in an evenly divided Senate, as Republicans proffered bad faith arguments such as:
Any attempt to restrict access to firearms, ammunition, or accessories is a violation of Second Amendment rights.
Good guys with a gun are needed to stop bad guys with a gun.
Homicide rate increases are the fault of Democrats who called for defunding the police.
Calling the problem a “public health epidemic,” President Biden has committed to combating gun violence. The president recently announced plans for a “zero tolerance” policy, cracking down on illegal sales, providing new funding for police departments, and allowing communities to repurpose millions of dollars of federal coronavirus relief funding for programs proven to prevent gun violence.
However, even if Congress somehow passes new gun control laws, it won't be enough.
America needs a culture correction; a major shift in the way her citizens view guns. We must take a public health approach to ensure our families and communities are safe.
President Biden said it best: “This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue. It’s an American issue.” We owe it to ourselves and the next generation to do everything possible to create a safer America.
Mark M. Bello, a trial lawyer, is the author of "Betrayal High" and other ‘ripped from the headlines’ Zachary Blake Social Justice Legal Thrillers available on Amazon.com and other online booksellers. For more information, please visit www.markmbello.com.