Why can’t America do anything to stop mass shootings?
Despite hundreds of mass shootings unfolding in America every year, the US Congress has repeatedly failed to pass major gun-control legislation.
The hurdles to enacting stricter gun laws in the US are numerous and significant, but activists say they will not give up until change is made.
This year, 213 mass shootings, defined as incidents in which at least four people were shot or killed, have already occurred in America, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
In 2021, 692 mass shootings were recorded, in comparison to 610 over the course of 2020.
A teenage gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, the deadliest school shooting in nearly a decade.
The US has already seen other devastating examples of mass shootings this month. Less than two weeks before the shooting in Uvalde, a gunman opened fire at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. He fatally shot 10 people, most of them African American.
Gun control advocates have outlined an extensive and specific plan to lower the number of deaths caused by firearms in the US. Those policies include mandating background checks for all gun purchases, including those overseen by unlicensed sellers online or at gun shows, and enforcing a waiting period after someone buys a firearm.
Advocates have also called for expanding the restrictions on people who can legally acquire guns. They say abusive dating partners, those convicted of hate crimes and people with mental illness who pose a safety risk, among others, should be barred from buying firearms. Some have proposed prohibiting gun purchases by people under 21, which may have prevented the 18-year-old shooter in Uvalde from acquiring his weapons.
Some states have already enacted stricter gun laws, but federal legislation would strengthen restrictions nationwide.
There is broad support in the US for certain policies championed by gun-control advocates. According to a Morning Consult/Politico survey taken last year, 84% of American voters support universal background checks for gun purchases.
But opinions are more varied when Americans are asked about their thoughts on stricter gun laws in general. A November poll conducted by Gallup found that 52% of Americans support stricter gun control, which marked the lowest rating on the question since 2014. Support for a ban on handguns also hit a new low in 2021, with just 19% of Americans telling Gallup that they would be in favor of such a policy.
Some of that hesitation may stem from the fact that tens of millions of Americans own guns themselves. Four in 10 Americans live in a household with a gun, while 30% say they personally own one, according to a 2021 survey by Pew Research Center.