Calls grow for stricter gun control amid string of US shootings

Non-profit group reports 150 mass shootings since start of the year, putting pressure on Joe Biden to take action.

Dozens gather at the Colorado State Capitol to discuss gun violence in the wake of a deadly shooting at a Boulder supermarket last month [File: Alyson McClaran/Reuters]

Calls for stricter gun control laws in the United States are once again gaining momentum, after a series of deadly shootings left communities across the country reeling in recent weeks and prompted President Joe Biden to promise change.

As of midday Sunday, the US has recorded 150 mass shootings so far in 2021, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, a US non-profit that defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the attacker.

The tally comes just days after eight people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a FedEx facility in the city of Indianapolis, Indiana, later killing himself.

The Indianapolis attack marked the 147th mass shooting of 2021, the archive said, nearly double the number of incidents that were reported in the US by the same date last year.

Another shooting at a tavern in the US state of Wisconsin early on Sunday left three people dead and two injured, while authorities in Austin, Texas, said three people had been killed in a shooting in that city around midday. The exact details of those incidents remained unclear.

On Saturday, the Washington Post newspaper’s editorial board said that as the COVID-19 pandemic “is easing and some normalcy is returning, the pace of mass shootings has picked up”.

“Just four months into 2021, there has already been more of such carnage than in all of last year,” the board wrote, adding that “it, of course, doesn’t have to be this way”. The Post called for “common-sense measures” including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and child access prevention laws, to try to get gun violence under control.

“President Biden and the congressional Democratic leadership understand that, but so far they haven’t been able to overcome Republican opposition to enact meaningful reforms,” the editorial read.

But 610 mass shootings were reported in 2020, according to the Gun Violence Archive, up from 417 the previous year and 336 in 2018.

Dr Anthony Fauci, one of the country’s top infectious disease experts, said on Sunday that it is hard not to view gun violence as a public health issue.

50 Miles March - MLK
People join a rally to call attention to gun violence on March 28, 2018 in Janesville, Wisconsin [Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP]

“When you see people getting killed – in this last month, it’s just been horrifying what’s happened – how can you say that’s not a public health issue?” Fauci said during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union programme.

Biden has called mass shootings a “national embarrassment” and promised to enact stricter regulations, but he faces an uphill battle against gun lobby groups and US legislators who are opposed to more restrictive gun laws.

On April 7, the president cited the recent deadly shooting in Boulder, Colorado, and deadly attacks at spas in the Atlanta, Georgia, area as he unveiled executive actions to stem what he described as “the gun violence public health epidemic”.

Among the proposed steps, Biden put forward a plan to stem the spread of so-called ghost guns, which do not have tracking numbers.

He also said the federal government would publish draft “red flag” legislation for states, which would allow family members and police to petition to temporarily stop people in crisis from accessing guns. Biden has urged Congress to pass such legislation at the federal level, too.

Source: Al Jazeera