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Opinion Yes, we can do something about gun violence

Flowers and memorials to honor the victims of the Robb Elementary School school shooting in Uvalde, Tex. on May 30. (Veronica Cardenas/Reuters)

“Not if but when.” That wrenching assessment of the seeming inevitability of mass shootings was delivered Thursday by Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin as the city was still reeling from the deadly attack the day before on a medical building in which four people were killed. Underscoring the terrible truth about this country’s epidemic of gun violence were two more shootings on Thursday: one at a church parking lot in Iowa in which two women were killed before the gunman killed himself, and the other at a cemetery in Wisconsin in which two people were wounded.

Not a week has gone by this year without a mass shooting in the United States. Invariably, the victims have been innocents simply going about the routines of daily life. In Buffalo, they were grocery shoppers; in Uvalde, children and their teachers looking forward to the end of the school year; in Tulsa, medical professionals caring for patients.

The fatalism is misplaced: Of course it does not have to be this way. No other high-income country has the level of gun violence that has become commonplace in the United States. An average of more than 40,000 Americans die each year in gun homicides, suicides or accidental shootings. That is more than 110 people each day. Before the gunman opened fire Thursday at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, there had already been 232 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people, not including the shooter, are injured or killed.

Letters to the Editor

counterpointSolving the gun issue is harder than it seems

Those grim numbers — brought into stark relief by the atrocities in Buffalo, Uvalde and Tulsa — make all the more urgent President Biden’s Thursday night plea that Congress finally act. Using the rare, prime-time address as a bully pulpit, Mr. Biden spoke powerfully about the suffering and agony caused by gun violence and outlined his vision for gun control reform. The common-sense measures he outlined included a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines; expansion of background checks; mandated safe storage for weapons; a national “red-flag” law; and repeal of the liability shield that protects gun manufacturers from being sued.

Chances of Congress enacting the president’s sweeping proposals are slim, thanks to Republicans in the Senate who have refused to even debate these issues. But the hope is that a political moment may have finally arrived in which some Republicans see there is peril in doing nothing. A small group of senators from both parties has been working to reach a compromise, and there are cautious reports of some progress.

We would urge them to take to heart the words of the grandmother in Uvalde who lost a granddaughter and passed a handwritten letter to Mr. Biden during his visit there. “Erase the invisible line that is dividing our nation,” she wrote. “Come up with a solution and fix what’s broken and make the changes that are necessary to prevent this from happening again.”