Saturday night’s mass shooting in Philadelphia — added to the recent carnage in Buffalo, N.Y., Uvalde, Texas, Ames, Iowa, and Chattanooga, Tenn. — has renewed desperate pleas for commonsense gun safety measures.
Three people were killed and 11 injured as multiple gunmen fired into a crowd on South Street, a popular nightlife destination with strong roots in Philadelphia’s Black history.
The 232 mass shootings across the country this year deserve the attention they are receiving. However, let’s also keep in mind that suicides account for most gun deaths, and the daily violence in America doesn’t always include fatalities. Ninety-four people were shot in Philadelphia in just the last 10 days. For many of them, their lives are forever changed.
We are well past “Enough! Enough! Enough!” as President Joe Biden proclaimed last week.
A bipartisan group of senators is said to be close to a deal to toughen federal gun laws for the first time in a generation. But if history is any indicator, it is a safe bet that any successful legislation will fall far short of meaningful change. In fact, the Senate measure — said to focus on incentives for states to expand red-flag laws — sounds like nibbling at the margins.
Biden went much further by calling for a ban on assault weapons, expanding universal background checks, raising the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and repealing the legal liability loophole that protects gun makers when their weapons are used to kill innocent people.
Lawmakers in Philadelphia have long tried to pass gun safety measures, only to get rebuffed by state courts and the recalcitrant Republican-controlled legislature in Harrisburg. Just last week, a majority-Republican panel of the Pennsylvania appeals court rejected Philadelphia’s latest attempt to overturn the state law that prevents the city from enacting its own gun regulations.
Mayor Jim Kenney rightly said the city would appeal the wrongheaded decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Given Republican roadblocks in the courts, legislature, and Congress, other steps also must be taken to stem gun violence, including increased public education, improved trauma care, and more economic development.
For any of that to happen, more people need to contact their elected representatives in Congress via the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. Tell lawmakers you want an assault-weapons ban and other substantive gun safety measures. You can also get involved with States United to Prevent Gun Violence, an umbrella organization for groups like CeaseFirePA, which works to improve gun safety at the state and local levels.
Other needed steps include ramping up funding for gun safety research to better inform and shape policies that save lives. In a shocking “see no evil” approach to gun violence, lawmakers stopped funding gun safety research for more than 20 years.
Sending thoughts and prayers is fine after a mass shooting, but it’s not the solution to America’s gun problem. Real change is needed.