Gilotti was just one of dozens of people shot on Tuesday, the day President Obama announced a package of modest executive actions meant to reduce gun violence. The dead include a 28-year-old woman in Ohio murdered by her sister's husband, who later took his own life. They include two teenagers who were killed in a drive-by shooting in Chicago at 3:30 p.m., not long after Obama concluded his remarks on gun violence at the White House. They include a California man shot and killed in his car in front of his two small children in broad daylight.
Injuries include a man in Colorado who was hit by a bullet when his neighbor accidentally shot his gun through a wall while cleaning it in his apartment. They include a woman who was pushing a stroller down a busy Oakland street when a man began shooting indiscriminately. They include an employee of an automotive shop shot in the back at work in Ohio during an armed robbery Tuesday afternoon.
This level of violence was not out of the ordinary for a Tuesday in America. What was unusual is that while these shootings were happening, politicians in Washington were debating steps to take to address the problem. Obama's limited executive actions -- clarifying who qualifies as a federal firearms dealer, providing more money for mental health, bringing on more officers from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to enforce existing laws -- were met by a ferocious outcry from Republican lawmakers who accused the president of overstepping his authority and trampling on the Second Amendment. Even though the announced changes were exactly what the lawmakers clamored for in their criticisms of the action.
Some critics complained that the actions wouldn't do much to address gun violence. By definition, incremental improvements to existing laws will not end violence completely, or stop the next Sandy Hook. But over 30,000 people die each year at the business end of a gun. That leaves a lot of opportunity to nibble away at those figures at the margins. Researchers say there's no silver bullet to end gun violence.
"As with motor vehicles it's not gonna be one thing," Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told me last month. "It will take several different things and committed people to follow through with better policies, and better enforcement, to reduce the mortality."
Webster notes that when laws work, they don't make headlines. "We can't see when people don't get shot, when they don't die," he said. "It's not a news item."
If the measures announced by the Obama administration reduce gun fatalities by even one tenth of one percent, that translates into roughly 34 lives a year. Not headline news, perhaps. But ask the families of 34 victims of gun violence what difference it would make to them to have their loved ones alive today.
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