Saturday, August 3, 2019, 20 people in El Paso were killed and 26 injured with an AK-47-style assault weapon in a heinous act of domestic terrorism at a Walmart where 3,000 people were shopping. The shooter told investigators he wanted to shoot as many Mexicans as he could.
Sunday, August 4, 2019, nine people were killed and 26 wounded in a shooting in Dayton, Ohio. Police said the shooter was wearing body armor, armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle, a 223-caliber high-capacity rifle with 100-round drum magazines. He was able to murder nine people, one of whom was his sister, and injured 26 others in less than a minute.
The AR-15 has become the official weapon of mass killers, chosen because it’s capable of killing as many people as possible in a matter of minutes. Gun carnage unfolds across our nation with tragic shootings reported daily.
While the families and community of El Paso mourn, so do the many families across the country who have also experienced the tragedy of shootings and loosing loved ones. With every shooting they re-live the horror and the fear that does not fade with time. Many families in Santa Barbara have experienced the profound sorrow and America’s unanswered question: Why aren’t people and communities safe in this country?
Our nation began with the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, which among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
People are being shot with firearms in “the land of the free,” and their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are being violently taken. The words of our founding fathers ring hollow to grieving families.
While people in El Paso flocked to blood banks to donate their blood even as the dead and wounded were still being counted, President Donald Trump pledged the “total support” of the federal government, whatever that entails.
The “total support” of the federal government did occur in Australia after the horrific mass shooting in Port Arthur, Tasmania, where 35 people were murdered and 18 were wounded by an assailant with a semiautomatic rifle. The public outcry brought together Australia’s political parties from the right and the left to take major action. The government bought and destroyed more than 600,000 civilian-owned firearms in a national gun buyback that cost half a billion dollars. The entire action took just months to implement.
Sadly, in comparison, the U.S. Congress and Senate have done little over the years. The list of mass killings by firearms grows longer while some politicians fear for their reelection but not for the lives of Americans. All elected officials from both parties must work together to pass needed gun-violence-prevention laws. The American public has spoken multiple times for universal background checks and banning military-style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. We have more guns than people in this country, and we don’t know who has them. Every state should enact an Extreme Risk Prevention Law. Most of these laws have been sitting for years in Congress waiting to be passed with bipartisan support by the House of Representatives. Majority Leader McConnell has refused to bring life-saving legislation up for a vote in the Senate. We must urge our senators to return from their August recess for an #EmergencySessionNow and insist they take meaningful action now!
In the majority of states there is no waiting period to buy a gun. The background check takes 20 minutes and is done by phone or internet. You can leave with your firearm purchase that same day. In California there is a 10-day waiting period including passing a licensing test. The Gilroy shooter bought his weapon in another state and brought that gun illegally into California. On Sunday, July 28, the people in Gilroy experienced yet another mass shooting. Some are still in hospital, and funerals are being planned. As tears of anguish flow, it is apparent, we are all touched by gun violence. It is long past time to not only speak but take concrete action to ensure Americans can be assured of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Since we are all touched by gun violence, we must all speak out now. Our collective voices must rise up and say, “We refuse to let gun violence rule our lives.” #HonorWithAction!
Toni Wellen is founder and chair of Coalition Against Gun Violence.