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Updates on US Gun Reform Efforts

Social Justice Brief #20 | By: Erika Shannon | July 20, 2021

Header photo taken from: nytimes.com

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Photo taken from: ABC News

The year 2021 has been filled with lots of violence for Americans across the country. From mass shootings to a rise in gun violence in major cities, it is clear that something must be done to put an end to the senseless killings. Earlier this year, President Biden signed several Executive Orders  in an attempt to curb some of the gun violence the U.S. has been seeing. The orders placed  new restrictions on pistol modification and nominating an anti-gun advocate to helm the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

However, there has been more inaction than progress made in reducing the amount of gun incidents where people are harmed or lose their lives. This year has been especially deadly, according to recent statistics. The 300th mass shooting of the year took place on June 12th, which is four months sooner than in the past. To tack on to that, more than 1,800 people have been killed or injured in mass shootings so far this year.

While the numbers certainly look bad, some efforts are being attempted on a legislative front to keep firearms out of the wrong hands. The “Disarm Hate Act” was introduced in Congress in mid-June. Its purpose is to add on to the category of people who are not allowed to receive or possess a firearm. The bill would make it illegal for those who have been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime or who have received an enhanced hate crime misdemeanor sentence from selling, transferring, possessing, shipping, or transporting firearms.

The hope is that those who have been convicted of hate crimes will not be able to use firearms to carry out acts of hate in the future, and there is hope that this bill will eventually become law.

Another proposed Congressional bill to help curb gun violence is the National Gun Violence Research Act. This bill would promote gun violence research by removing limitations on the use of firearms tracing data by the ATF, permitting funds made available to the Department of Health and Human Services to be used for gun violence research, and establishing the National Gun Violence Research Program.

The bill would also authorize various competitive grants to support research into the nature, causes, consequences, and prevention of gun violence.

Understanding why there is such a spike in gun crimes may be a key piece to fixing this problem across the country, and there is hope the bill will gain some traction.

Photo taken from: American Psychological Association

Proposing gun control legislation is no easy feat; many measures are knocked down before they even have a chance for fears that they violate 2nd Amendment rights. This year, the Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act was re-introduced.

The bill establishes a process for the licensing and registration of firearms, while also prohibiting the possession of certain ammunition and large capacity ammunition feeding devices. Its goal is for the Department of Justice to establish and maintain a publicly available database of all registered firearms; this is so that law enforcement knows whose possession they belong in.

One problem this bill might face is the fact that it also wants to change the licensing requirements for the possession of a firearm and ammunition by only issuing a license if the individual is of age twenty-one or older, undergoes a criminal background check and psychological evaluation, completes a certified training course, and has an insurance policy.

Photo taken from: Global Village Space

As with many bills, the Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act will likely face problems. A federal appeals court recently ruled that federal regulations setting a minimum age of twenty-one years old for purchasing handguns from licensed dealers is a violation of the Second Amendment. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that laws setting that minimum age downgraded “either the Second Amendment or 18- to 20-year olds to a second-class status.” One of the components of the Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act is changing the legal age to own a gun to twenty-one.

Any legislation regarding gun control is tricky, with the National Rifle Association and conservatives quick to accuse gun control measures of violating the Second Amendment. However, with shootings on the rise across the nation, there has to be some leeway on one side or the other to protect innocent Americans who are being shot and killed. There is hope that eventually there will be new legislation that addresses this epidemic of violence in the U.S.

If there is no movement soon on a federal level, local and state governments need to think about tackling the gun violence problem as well. President Biden himself has stated that local and federal leaders need to come together in order to reduce gun violence.

Some states have already began to deal with the problem in their own way. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a statewide emergency declaration in an attempt to address gun violence throughout the state. The move would allow New York to spend $138 million towards gun control efforts. In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a $1 million reward fund for tips about illegal guns. This is in an effort to get illegal guns off the streets and out of the hands of those who are killing innocent people across the city.

It is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ending the gun violence problem in the U.S. However, a combination of efforts at both local and federal levels is one of the most ideal ways to at least reduce the number of gun crimes being committed. While President Biden has made some conscious efforts in the area of gun control, many are hoping he will put more energy into delivering on his promise of tackling gun violence.

The bill would also authorize various competitive grants to support research into the nature, causes, consequences, and prevention of gun violence.

Understanding why there is such a spike in gun crimes may be a key piece to fixing this problem across the country, and there is hope the bill will gain some traction.

Just within the past several days there were mass shootings in Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon where several people were injured and two lost their lives; one of the victims was a six-year-old girl. Some further action must be taken to prevent these tragedies or else they will continue to occur across our nation at staggering rates.

Photo taken from: The New York Times

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

To see progress on proposed legislation and see what other measures have been introduced, visit Congress.gov

To learn more about preventing gun violence, visit the Prevention Institute website.

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