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Opinion Another weekend, another body count from gun violence

People attend a vigil for Sierra Jenkins on March 20 at Granby High School in Norfolk. Jenkins, a reporter for the Virginian-Pilot, died after being shot early Saturday outside a restaurant. (Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

An outburst of gunfire shattered an auto show last weekend in Arkansas. One person was killed and 27 other people, including five children, were injured. It wasn’t the only mass shooting in the United States last weekend. Two were killed and three wounded when shooting erupted outside a popular restaurant in downtown Norfolk; four teenagers were shot — one fatally — outside a birthday party in Houston; three people were killed and three others wounded in an incident at a Fayetteville, N.C., hotel. And that is not even a complete list.

That the shootings got fleeting attention is more sad commentary on how the country has become inured to gun violence. But there can be no moving past the toll, collectively or individually. That children, ranging in age from 19 months to 11 years, went to what was supposed to have been a family-friendly car show and were caught in crossfire. That two 25-year-olds, Devon Harris and Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press reporter Sierra Jenkins, were killed by stray bullets outside a restaurant after an argument escalated into gunfire. That a Texas mother was left in devastating grief after her 17-year-old son went to a party and never made it home.

Tragedies often begin with an argument — as happened in Norfolk, where authorities say a spilled drink set off last weekend’s shooting. Instead of ending with harsh words or a thrown punch, a gun is pulled.

“I will examine details to see if there are any steps that could have been taken to prevent this type of tragedy,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said in a statement issued after Saturday’s car show shooting in Dumas. If Mr. Hutchinson is serious, he should start by taking a critical look at his state’s gun laws. Arkansas, which has the eighth-highest rate of gun deaths in the United States, is ranked as having the country’s weakest gun laws in the Giffords Law Center Annual Gun Law Scorecard. The state’s standing was reinforced last year with enactment of a law preventing cities from creating gun-free zones and repeal of a law that required a permit to carry a concealed firearm in public.

Arkansas is not alone in making it easy for people to carry concealed weapons with no requirement for a background check or training. As The Post’s Kim Bellware reported, there are 23 states — nearly half the country — in which no permit is required to carry a concealed firearm in public. Proponents argue that they are giving people the ability to defend themselves, which saves lives and reduces crime. Research, however, shows that states that have weakened their firearm permitting systems experience increases in violent crime and handgun homicide rates.

Looser laws have been accompanied by an unprecedented increase in the purchase of firearms, a trend that started in January 2020 with concerns about the emerging covid-19 pandemic. “The more access there is to firearms in a society, the more firearm violence there is likely to be,” Garen Wintemute, director of the California Firearm Violence Research Center, told the Conversation, a nonprofit news organization. And with more violence, more lives cut short.

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Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the Editorial Board, based in the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.

Members of the Editorial Board and areas of focus: Deputy Editorial Page Editor Karen Tumulty; Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus; Associate Editorial Page Editor Jo-Ann Armao (education, D.C. affairs); Jonathan Capehart (national politics); Lee Hockstader (immigration; issues affecting Virginia and Maryland); David E. Hoffman (global public health); Charles Lane (foreign affairs, national security, international economics); Heather Long (economics); Molly Roberts (technology and society); and Stephen Stromberg (elections, the White House, Congress, legal affairs, energy, the environment, health care).

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