On February 14, 2018, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. walked on campus and shot and killed 17 people, injuring 17 more. The devastating and tragic event ignited a teen-led movement — spearheaded by March for Our Lives — to stop gun violence in America. It took over a year for congress to respond to this youth-filled activism — on February 27, 2019, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 8, the Background Check Expansion Act, which expanded background checks to private gun purchases.
Since that point, it seems that most of the outrage over gun violence has completely subsided. S. 42, which has been sitting in the Senate for months, will most likely not be called to a vote as long as Mitch McConnell remains the Senate Majority Leader.
This doesn’t mean we have completely regressed on the issue of gun violence prevention, however. Many stricter gun laws have been passed in California and other states since Parkland. For example, a California bill passed recently which prohibits firearm ownership for domestic abusers and anyone who has been involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility. However, at the very top, national common sense legislation has yet to be introduced at all in the 116th Congress.
While we wait for a solution from our national leaders, the gun violence crisis persists in our country. According to an ongoing data collection by Vox, the United States still averages roughly 1 mass shooting per day. In these instances, mass shootings are defined as shootings where at least four or more individuals are killed. According to the same data set, there has only been one full calendar week without a mass shooting since 2013.
One would think that one mass shooting per day for nearly 5 years would spur our elected officials into action. On the contrary, this phenomenon has led to more apathy than action. Collectively, we have become numb to this crisis. Mass shootings are now so commonplace and such a normal part of our news cycle and culture that we have no choice but to cope with one tragedy while we await the next one. The epidemic has seeped into all parts of American life — it has impacted our schools, malls, city streets, bars, and even homes through domestic violence. The victims of these incidents have become statistics, stripped of their humanity due to the overwhelming nature of gun violence today.
I am interning with JCJ this summer to ensure that outrage over this issue continues. We cannot let regular gun violence continue to be our reality and shape our future. To accomplish this goal, we must maintain pressure on our Senators to pass S. 42, an important step in expanding and improving our flawed background check system. We must also continue to urge our elected officials to fund gun violence prevention research conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). A recent funding bill even brought the repeal of the Dickey Amendment, which not only prevented the CDC from conducting research into gun violence, but also disallowed the governmental organization from promoting or advocating for any gun violence prevention legislation. The repeal of this harmful amendment is just the first step as it will not provide actual funds for gun violence prevention research.
Another common-sense solution would be a repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which gives gun manufacturers and sellers immunity in civil lawsuits. We need to be able to hold private firearm manufacturers and sellers accountable for negligent sales practices. One practice firearm companies employ is to sell guns to buyers without a background check, a transaction that is quicker albeit way less safe. Further, sellers often report this illegal sale as losing a firearm from their inventory. This behavior can be prevented with the repeal of PLCAA.
As a high school student, the gun violence crisis is very real for me. I do recognize that it’s far from finished. This is why it is imperative that congress pass common-sense laws to reduce the severity of this epidemic. We cannot afford to let this continue any longer. Call your representative and senators today to tell them that they have the responsibility to end this crisis, once and for all. Take action here.
Sam Wolf is a legislative intern for the Jewish Center for Justice. He will be a junior at Beverly Hills High School this Fall.