The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Why, after so many mass shootings, are we still asking the same questions?

Texas state troopers guard the police perimeter around Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., on May 25. Twenty-one people, including 19 children, were fatally shot during a mass shooting at the school on May 24. (Sergio Flores for The Washington Post)
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“Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone?” Those were the anguished questions of President Biden hours after Tuesday’s massacre at an elementary school in Texas. The same haunting questions were asked after Columbine, after Blacksburg, after Sandy Hook, after Roseburg, after Charleston. They will be asked again, and yet again, as long as Congress refuses to enact needed gun safety reform.

Just 10 days after a man allegedly driven by racism gunned down 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket came the murders of 19 children and two teachers in a fourth-grade classroom at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex.

Among the victims of the deadliest mass shooting at an American school in nearly a decade: Xavier Lopez, 10, who had just made the honor roll; Uziyah Garcia, 8, remembered by his grandfather as the “sweetest little boy that I’ve ever known”; Eva Mireles, an educator for 17 years whose daughter recently graduated from college; and Irma Garcia, a teacher and mother of four reported to have tried to shield her students from the gunman.

Henry Olsen

counterpointWhy the Supreme Court’s gun ruling is an entirely reasonable one

The shooting — one of at least 24 acts of gun violence on K-12 campuses so far this year in which at least 28 people have been killed, according to a Post database — came a day after a FBI report showing a sharp increase last year in active-shooter attacks nationwide. In 2020, for the first time, firearms became the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers, supplanting car accidents.

Yet Congress does nothing. The issue has not been seriously debated since 2013, after 20 children and six staff members were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012. Two proposals to expand and strengthen background checks — reforms that have overwhelming support from the American public — passed the House in March of 2021 but have languished in the Senate where 10 Republican votes would be needed to overcome a filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Democrats are open to negotiations with Republicans in hopes of coming up with a deal on gun control legislation. One can hope that the horror in Uvalde has caused some soul-searching among the Republican ranks. Fortifying background checks should be a priority. So should legislation sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would raise the minimum age to purchase assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines from 18 to 21.

The Texas gunman — like the shooting suspect in Buffalo and so many others responsible for mass slaughters — was a teenager but able to purchase military-style weapons because of a provision in federal gun laws that requires someone to be 21 to purchase a handgun but not a rifle. After the Parkland shooting in 2018, Florida’s GOP-controlled legislature passed and then-Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law a measure raising the minimum age for purchasing rifles to 21 years old. Surely, Mr. Scott, now in the Republican leadership of the Senate, should stand behind a proposal he once championed. New laws won’t prevent all mass shootings, but they would stop some of them. That’s a start.