After Horrible Weekend in August, Maybe Things Will Be Different

by Apurva Mahajan ‘22

After the El Paso and Dayton shootings that happened back-to-back in early August, many Americans waited to see how the government would respond to the public’s anger. The response from the White House and the Republican-controlled Senate has been disappointing to those who want to see changes to the nation’s gun laws. However, public support for more gun control measures has grown after the continuation of mass shootings, and while Congress hasn’t passed any laws, businesses and other groups have been attempting to create change in regards to gun control.

In El Paso, Texas, 22 people were killed and 24 were wounded on August 3 after an armed gunman opened fire in a Walmart with an assault rifle. The suspect told police that he was targeting Mexicans, saying he wanted to stop a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Only a day later, 9 people were killed and 27 others were injured at a bar in Dayton, Ohio. It was revealed that the Dayton shooter had said misogynistic comments in the past, dehumanizing women.

While there has been a lack of action at the federal level, businesses have begun vocalizing their views about gun control. Some independent retailers have openly banned bringing guns into their stores, and some national retailers like Walmart have restricted the sale of certain types of ammunition. The leaders of many large-scale businesses in the United States have written a letter to the Senate, pushing for passage of red-flag laws and expanded federal background checks on gun sales. The leaders of 145 top companies such as Twitter, Uber, Gap, Airbnb, and many others have made this the most notable action taken by private corporations to influence gun violence and control, writing in the letter, “Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety. There are steps Congress can, and must, take to prevent and reduce gun violence.”

Gun control is also a major topic in the upcoming 2020 election, especially among the Democratic candidates. All of the candidates support red-flag laws, more background checks, and the ban of assault weapons. Beto O’Rourke supercharged the call for action when he said at a televised debate, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” unveiling a proposal for a national gun registry and a nationwide gun licensing system weeks later. Joe Biden would like to expand the use of technology which can make guns safer to use. Elizabeth Warren wants to raise the minimum age for the use of guns, report multiple gun purchases, and investigate the NRA. Bernie Sanders used to be supported by the NRA, but has since moved to the more liberal side and supports banning assault weapons. Cory Booker favors closing gun sale loopholes, and supports handgun registration requiring a license, saying “If you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to own a gun.” Kamala Harris says she plans to give Congress 100 days to pass gun control laws, including the repeal of special legal protections for gun companies. She also wants to crack down on the gun industry to make it harder for someone that has a criminal record to purchase a gun.

Recent polling shows that 85 percent of Americans support red-flag laws and 66 percent want assault weapons to be banned. The question is whether elected politicians, particularly Republicans in Congress who represent conservative states or districts, will actually create policies in response to the public outcry that will have an impact.