It was a particularly bloody weekend in the United States, but that list — itself sadly far from complete — seemed not to command any kind of real attention. Never mind that the spate of shootings capped a week in which a sixth-grade student in Idaho pulled a handgun from her backpack and started shooting before she was disarmed; mercifully, no one was killed, but three people — an adult and two students — were shot. “This is the worst nightmare a school district could ever face,” said Jefferson School District Superintendent Chad Martin. “We prepare for it but you’re never truly prepared.”
There are 39,000 gun deaths in the United States every year, about 100 a day. It is time — long past time — to treat the problem like the public health emergency it is.
Instead, reasonable gun-safety legislation languishes in the Senate because of opposition from Republicans focused on their narrow political interests. Measures that would expand and strengthen background checks for gun buyers are supported by a majority of Americans. But even as gun violence has surged, a number of Republican-led states are allowing the carrying of firearms without a permit, a background check or any kind of training; Texas seems poised to become the latest state to join in this lunacy. And in a development that has gun-safety advocates justifiably worried, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case testing how far states may go in regulating whether an individual may carry a gun outside the home. Given the more conservative makeup of the court since its ruling a decade ago guaranteeing the right to own a gun in one’s home for self-defense, the outcome could well be a ruling that restricts or bars states from regulating the carrying of guns. Just what the country needs: more guns on the street.
Not all gun deaths can be prevented, but there are common-sense measures — such as safe storage laws and bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines — that could reduce the number of mass shootings, domestic killings and suicides that have become commonplace. It is time for action on common-sense gun safety.