The horrific mass shooting at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday that left 14 children and a teacher dead has sparked another round of calls for gun control in the United States.
The chances of meaningful legislation getting to U.S. President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature remain grim, however, as Republicans have blocked several previous attempts at reform and conservative-leaning states move to weaken existing gun laws.
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As information about the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, was still being confirmed, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a longtime advocate for gun control, was already speaking on the Senate floor begging his colleagues to act.
“Our kids are living in fear every single time they set foot in a classroom because they think they’re going to be next,” he said.
“What are we doing? Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate … if your answer is that as the slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing?”
In Texas, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement calling on state and federal lawmakers to pass “reasonable gun control legislation.”
“How many more children must lose their lives from senseless gun violence?” the mayor asked.
Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic presidential nominee, said it was not enough to offer “thoughts and prayers.”
“After years of nothing else, we are becoming a nation of anguished screams,” she wrote on Twitter. “We simply need legislators willing to stop the scourge of gun violence in America that is murdering our children.”
U.S. President Joe Biden is set to address the Texas school shooting Tuesday evening, after returning to the White House from a trip to Asia.
On social media, Americans across the country said the time has long since passed for laws to be changed, arguing the deaths in Uvalde could have been prevented.
The last meaningful effort to pass some kind of federal gun control measure was in 2013, in the wake of another school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children dead.
At the time, Biden was vice-president to Barack Obama, who pushed Democrats in Congress to come to a solution. A bipartisan compromise was eventually reached that would have expanded background checks and banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The bill ultimately died in the Senate, where 60 votes were needed and most Republicans refused to offer support. Obama later called the bill’s defeat “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
Amid an increase in shootings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the gun control debate was reanimated once again just a week-and-a-half ago, after an 18-year-old gunman killed 10 people and wounded three more at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighbourhood in Buffalo, N.Y. The gunman had posted online that the shooting was racially motivated.
Days after the massacre, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced new bills to further restrict people deemed dangerous from accessing firearms, bolstering existing regulations on purchasing and carrying firearms.
Those laws are currently at risk, however, as the U.S. Supreme Court is due to rule this summer on a case brought by two New York men who are challenging restrictions on concealed carry permits in the state. If the high court rules in their favour, it could weaken similar laws across the country.
Conservative-leaning states, meanwhile, are passing new laws that allow more people to own and carry guns with fewer restrictions — including Texas.
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Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law last year allowing Texans to carry handguns without a licence or training. Other laws passed in 2021 allow school marshalls and hotel guests to carry guns and declared gun stores as essential businesses.
Arkansas, Iowa, South Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia also saw weaker gun legislation go into effect last year, according to Everytown, a gun control advocacy group.
The bills range from so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws — which allow residents to shoot anyone they deem a threat to their safety — to allowing people to carry concealed weapons without a permit and weakening background checks on some guns.
Tuesday’s shooting came just days before the National Rifle Association’s annual convention was set to begin in Houston. Abbott and Texas’ two U.S. senators were among multiple elected Republican officials who were scheduled to speak at a Friday leadership forum sponsored by the NRA’s lobbying arm.
Biden has taken his own actions to try and curb shootings, issuing executive actions last year that tighten regulations on homemade guns and provide more resources for gun-violence prevention. But those measures fall short of the sweeping gun-control agenda Biden promised during the 2020 campaign.
Asked about the push for regulations last week, after he gave a speech condemning the white supremacist ideologies behind the Buffalo shooting, Biden admitted, “It’s going to be very difficult … I’m not going to give up trying.”
About two-thirds of Americans support stricter gun laws, according to an Ipsos/USA Today poll last March, although the poll found support had declined from 75 per cent in 2018. The issue has become increasingly partisan, with 90 per cent of Democrats in favour of reform compared to just 35 per cent of Republicans.
Everytown estimates that between 2009 and 2018, 1,121 people in the U.S. were killed in a mass shooting, and 836 more were wounded.
Since the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, more than 300,000 children have experienced shootings at 320 schools, according to an investigation by the Washington Post.
Those shootings have led to the deaths of at least 163 children, educators and other people.
The U.S. government does not keep track of school shooting events, leaving most tallies to be done by independent advocacy groups and media reports.
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