Within a week, America was once again rocked by two mass shootings that took the lives of 18 people. First, on Mar. 16, a gunman killed eight people at three different spas in Atlanta, and then on Mar. 22, another 10 people were killed in a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, mass shootings in the United States have not been slowing but their publication has been. In fact, according to the Gun Violence Archive, gun violence was at its worst in 2020 with 19,380 deaths and 39,427 injuries. This is an increase of almost 4,000 and 10,000 respectively. Though with the lack of any mass event in the past year, one might think that the problem had stagnated, but the instances of low-profile violence are on the rise and make up most of this data. The Washington Post states that the pandemic most likely contributed to these numbers because of increased financial and emotional stress, lowered anti-crime efforts, and lack of confidence in the police and the justice system.
This resurgence of press surrounding gun violence has also sparked the gun control debate and has raised the already high political tensions. The most popular measure amongst Americans is to instate stricter background checks. There have been two bills passed by the House that would close certain loopholes. The first would require background checks at gun shows and online sales both of which did not previously require them. The second would close the “Charleston loophole” which, as USA Today explains, “allows gun sales to proceed without a completed background check if three business days have passed.” There have also been calls from President Biden to reissue a ban on assault weapons. During his tenure in the Senate, a ban was passed but has not been renewed since it expired in 2004, 10 years after its passage.
As is typical with gun control debates, the votes are split on party lines, and with no hope of a filibuster-proof bill in sight. As a result, many have called on the President to use executive orders. The administration has not made any public move or statement in support of this route, most likely for fear of legal action and potential Supreme Court involvement. However, this has not stopped gun activist groups from contacting members of the Biden Administration to state their case.
Unfortunately, the Atlanta shooting highlighted the ever-growing presence of hate and violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). Six of the eight victims were Asian women which strongly suggests a connection between the crime and identities of the victims. The gunman also seemingly targeted these businesses because of those who work and run them. Since the standards made it very difficult to prove a hate crime federally, it is up to the recently passed hate crime law in Georgia to fully prosecute this perpetrator.
If anything positive can be taken from these events, it’s that it has reinvigorated the effort to put in place effective gun control and has placed the need to address hate crimes at the forefront of American activism once again. One can only hope that this will result in the substantial change that this country greatly needs.