A citizen's view: Enough with the status quo of gun violence


August 16, 2023

Governor Gavin Newsom of California calls for a constitutional amendment enshrining common-sense gun control. He calls his effort a “mechanism to address the echo chamber of despair” – the ever-more-frequent mass shootings. Newsom’s proposed twenty-eighth amendment to the U.S. Constitution is hardly the comprehensive measure this country would need to stop the bloodshed. It would merely raise the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21, mandate universal background checks, impose a waiting period for purchasing a gun and ban assault weapons. The proposal is bound to go nowhere, but the governor insists that something has to be done.

Before July 4, the United States was already on pace to exceed the carnage of last year. Then the long holiday weekend brought shootings in Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia; in Fort Lauderdale and Elizabeth City, North Carolina; in Lexington, Kentucky and Shreveport, Louisiana and many other places – 22 mass shootings in 17 states that killed at least 20 Americans and injured more than 100 others.

This is the toll of acceptance: as of mid-July, the Gun Violence Archive’s tally of mass shootings stood at 372 for the year so far and the number of mass murders committed with guns at 27.

At the same time, some of the worst mass shootings of recent years were back in the news. In June, the shooter who killed 11 worshippers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018 was found guilty in a federal death-penalty trial. On July 7, the shooter who killed 23 people in a racist attack at an El Paso Walmart in 2019 was given 90 consecutive life sentences. On July 3, families of victims of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting – in which 17 people were killed – toured the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, scheduled for demolition now that it is no longer needed as evidence in the trial of the gunman.

Since the Parkland massacre, there have been more than 200 attacks on schools by people with easy access to high-powered firearms. On top of calls to arm teachers and subjecting children to active-shooter drills, we’ve decided to accept mass shootings as a feature of American life. Four in 10 Americans now believe it is at least somewhat likely that they’ll be the victim of a shooter within the next five years. Newsom’s twenty-eighth amendment may be very unlikely, but it isn’t crazy. What is crazy is the status quo.

Fr. Magnano is the parish priest for the Skagit Valley Catholic churches.


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