Calling gun violence a “pandemic within a pandemic,” an activist on Tuesday (March 23) called on U.S. lawmakers to act swiftly to pass legislation that would broaden background checks for gun buyers, a day after a second deadly mass shooting in less than a week.
“It has been a horrific twenty-four hours,” gun control advocate Shannon Watts said the morning after a gunman killed 10 people, including a police officer, at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. Six days earlier, another gunman fatally shot eight people at Atlanta-area day spas.
Watts, the founder of the group Mom’s Demand Action For Gun Sense In America, believes that heightened anxiety about the coronavirus pandemic won’t distract Americans from gun violence, but could actually contribute to an uptick in mass shooting incidents.
“This is the new reality,” Watts said.
Gun rights activists on Tuesday told lawmakers on Capitol Hill the recent spate of shootings only underscore the need for personal protection.
“Universal background checks will not help,” Chris Cheng, a professional marksman and instructor. Cheng was also the season four winner of the History Channel’s competition sharpshooting show, “Top Shot.
Cheng, who is Asian American, said he’s troubled by the recent uptick in attacks on people of Asian descent. He also worries that the 10-day waiting period for gun buyers (required under California) could leave his friends and family particularly vulnerable.”
“There should not be a timer delaying when an American wants to exercise their Second Amendment right or any other individual right,” Chen said.
It was a sentiment echoed by other gun rights activists, with some accusing gun control activists of politicizing recent attacks to promote their agenda.
“That’s what these guys want. They want to wrap up a high body bag count. They don’t want any place where somebody can fire back at them,” former state legislator Sr. Suzana Gratia Hupp said.
Numerous U.S. mass shootings have failed to prompt lawmakers to pass gun control legislation, thanks in large part to opposition from congressional Republicans and the NRA. The right to bear arms is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment and many Americans cherish gun rights.
“We need the Senate to act,” Watts said. “Given the fact that their constituents overwhelmingly support background checks, are they going to do the bidding of the gun lobby or are they going to finally listen to the people who elected them?”
Nearly 70% of Americans support adding “strong or moderate” federal gun restrictions, and ideas such as background checks and databases to track ownership have even greater public support, a 2019 Reuters poll found https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/reuters-ipsos-data-gun-control-2019-02-08.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats hold slim majorities in the House and Senate. Most bills require 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to move forward, a tough hurdle for gun control legislation considering that Republicans hold 50 of those seats.
After fierce NRA lobbying, Senate Republicans in 2013 thwarted legislation that would expand background checks, ban assault-style weapons and bar high-capacity gun magazines. The NRA since then has encountered internal upheaval and legal challenges.
Gun control activists have urged Biden to take executive action on matters they have said he can address unilaterally.
(Production: Katharine Jackson, Pavithra George and Deborah Gembara)