By Senator Lena C. Taylor
Still reeling from the mass shootings of the past week, we have been inundated with even more stories of gun-related murders and injuries. According to the Gun Violence Archive, an online site that collects gun related data daily from over 7500 sources, there have already been 17 U.S. mass shootings, since the Uvalde, Texas shootings. Sadly, that data is already outdated. In fact, as I sit to write this week’s column, Milwaukee news outlets are reporting that five people have been shot at a funeral, in Racine, Wisconsin.
Fed up and frustrated, I have worked for a number of years to understand both the root causes and possible solutions to curb gun violence. I have yet to find a cookie cutter approach to reduce this form of violence. What works in one community may do little to stop mass shootings somewhere else. In fact, the term “mass shootings” is even debated, with varying definitions across agencies, law enforcement and lay people.
Nearly 40 years ago, according to a Congressional Research Service report, the FBI established a definition for “mass murder” as “four or more victims slain, in one event, in one location,” and the offender is not included in the victim count if the shooter committed suicide or was killed in a justifiable homicide. However you define it, as of May 14th, we have witnessed 213 recorded mass shootings this year. We still have six months before we closeout 2022. How many more have to die before state and federal lawmakers are willing to take meaningful steps to bring about real change?
Every day citizens are doing their part. Groups like Everytown for Gun Safety, Amnesty International, Americans for Responsible Solutions, and others picked up on an observance created by Chicago high school students, Project Orange Tree, to honor a classmate mistakenly killed in the crossfire of gang shooting. The result is National Gun Violence Awareness Day, which is observed on the first Friday of June. Neighborhood groups, community stakeholders, and any number of private entities are trying to address the problem.
But make no mistake, it is legislative action, policy creation and changes to the law, that will bring about comprehensive and uniform national change. We need universal background checks, red flag laws that provide a mechanism to determine if someone is a mental health risk or domestically violent. We need to raise the age to purchase AR-15’s, require safe storage laws, address high capacity magazines and bump stocks. I’ve drafted or introduced many of these common sense measures in past legislative sessions.
My package of bills have included concealed carry training requirements, proof of insurance for concealed carry, a ban on semi-automatic weapons, microstamping handguns, banning perpetrators of hate crimes from purchasing/owning firearms, and creating an extreme risk protection temporary restraining orders for individuals subject to domestic violence, child abuse injunctions, or that may be a danger to themselves or others.
Acknowledging that many factors contribute to gun violence, we must also use data driven policies and interventions to bring about change. Our response must be comprehensive and require preventive measures or concessions from every stakeholder. As President Joe Biden stated recently, “let us finally do something” to stop this unnecessary loss of life.