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4 Steps the U.S. Must Take in Aftermath of Horrific Shooting

Our elected leaders have a moral obligation to end the epidemic of gun violence.
A handgun lying on top of an American flag

By on May 25, 2022

The nation was wracked Tuesday by the second mass shooting in barely a week. Just 10 days after a gunman killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York—one of multiple incidents of mass violence that weekend—another 18-year-old opened fire in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 21 people, 19 of them children. Both attacks targeted communities of color, and the attack in Buffalo was unmistakably motivated by white supremacist ideology. 

Words cannot do justice to the heartbreak families are experiencing in the wake of these atrocities. Nor can words suffice to ensure that more people are not killed in future acts of senseless violence. These mass killings are not isolated and unpredictable hazards. They are a systemic feature of U.S. society, born of a toxic combination of easy access to guns and the normalization of violence through hate-filled ideologies. Unless our elected officials take the following steps at minimum, more mass killings will follow. 

Pass common-sense gun safety laws.

It is possible and necessary to reduce the supply of guns in the United States without compromising civil liberties or furthering patterns of criminalization and over-policing. Members of Congress and state legislatures must enact measures that limit the power of the gun lobby and choke off the supply of deadly weaponry circulating in our society. This includes ending the categorical immunity that gun manufacturers currently enjoy under law for the role their products play in harming the public and taking innocent lives.

Reform Senate procedures to have a more functional Congress.

The primary barrier to these and other common-sense gun safety measures is the same factor that has blocked a path to citizenship, policing reform, voting rights, reproductive rights, and other measures that enjoy majority support among the U.S. public: namely, outdated Senate procedures requiring a 60-vote supermajority for any bill to pass. So long as these rules remain in effect, Congress will be a stultifying body without the ability to meaningfully respond to public demand or address social problems.

Such rules must be reformed to enable Congress to perform its constitutional duty: enact legislation that reflects the will of the U.S. public. 

Address racist double standards in response to violence.

The two horrific attacks from the past 10 days were both committed by teenagers: 18-year-old boys, to be specific. Yet of the two perpetrators, one was killed in the police response to the shooting. The other remains alive and now faces trial. The teenager who was killed was Hispanic (a tactical unit of the U.S. Border Patrol—an agency with a long track record of impunity for violence and institutional racism—killed him). The one who remains alive is White.

It is possible that circumstances made the deadly use of force in the Uvalde incident necessary to protect the lives of others; but the discrepancy between the two outcomes—coupled with similar incidents in the past—provides prima facie evidence of a double standard. The public must be vigilant about how authorities respond to these incidents to ensure equitable treatment and prevent the needless loss of life.

Treat this crisis as the human rights issue that it is. 

The right to life is a foundational human right. All people deserve to be safe and to live their lives in freedom from fear of death and physical injury. The pervasive menace of mass shootings in U.S. society, as well as the way these acts of violence disproportionately target nonwhite and non-Christian communities, are a human rights violation on a massive scale.

It is comforting to pretend that horrific incidents such as these are exceptional events, never to be repeated. But experience shows that unless we treat them as what they are—indicators of a deeper social ill—they will occur again. The time for action is past due. U.S. leaders must do everything in their power to keep the public safe from brutal violence and ensure the basic human right of every person to live in freedom, dignity, and safety. 

Photo Credit: iStock—STILLFX

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