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Gun control debate heats up in U.S. amidst rising mass shootings

Gun control debate heats up in U.S. amidst rising mass shootings U.S. President Joe Biden (Getty Images)

U.S. President Joe Biden appealed to the GOP on Wednesday, urging them to cooperate on gun control measures in response to recent shootings in Texas and Nevada amid a "gun violence epidemic."

Read below about U.S. gun policy and mass shootings that trigger Democrats-Republicans debates on the issue.

To prepare the story, the following sources were used: The Hill, BBC, Council on Foreign Relations, Gallup poll, and Gun Violence Archive.

What Biden said

“For all the action we have taken since I’ve been president, the epidemic of gun violence we face demands that we do even more,” Biden said.

In his remarks, the president called for bipartisan efforts, urging Republican lawmakers to join Democrats in banning assault weapons, enacting universal background checks, requiring the safe storage of guns, and advancing other commonsense measures that "will help stem the tide of gun violence.”

“This year alone, our nation has experienced more than 600 mass shootings, and approximately 40,000 deaths due to gun violence. This is not normal, and we can never let it become normal,” Biden adds.

Shootings in Texas and Nevada

The appeal follows a series of shootings in Texas, where six people were killed and several others injured on Tuesday. On Wednesday, a shooting happened at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with at least 3 victims reported. President Biden expressed condolences for the victims and gratitude for the police in his statement.

Mass shootings in the U.S.

The Gun Violence Archive reports that the United States has witnessed over 630 mass shootings this year alone. A mass shooting, as defined by the Archive, involves four or more people being injured or killed in an incident. These incidents happen both in homes and in public.

Remarkably, the past three years have each recorded over 600 mass shootings, averaging nearly two incidents per day.

Gun control debate heats up in U.S. amidst rising mass shootings

Mass shootings in the U.S. are on the rise (BBC)

Gun reform

The Biden administration has consistently advocated for gun reform and recently established an office for gun violence prevention. President Biden has openly criticized Republicans in Congress for their inaction on the issue.

The U.S. gun policy

The debate over gun control in the United States has waxed and waned over the years, prompted by mass shootings. Gun violence stands as one of the primary causes of death for children and young adults in the country.

Despite widespread public backing for new gun restrictions, Congress has consistently struggled to enact meaningful gun legislation in response to the tragedies.

Who supports gun control

57% of Americans surveyed said they wanted stricter gun laws, according to the Gallup poll.

32% said the laws stayed the same, while 10% of people surveyed said they should be "made less strict".

Gun control debate heats up in U.S. amidst rising mass shootingsThe poll shows Americans' preferences on gun control (BBC)

"Democrats are nearly unanimous in their support for stricter gun laws," another Gallup study says, with nearly 91% in favor of stricter gun laws.

Only 24% of Republicans, on the other hand, agreed with the same statement, along with 45% of independent voters.

Who opposes gun control

Despite facing financial challenges and internal conflicts for several years, the National Rifle Association (NRA) continues to hold its position as the most influential gun lobby in the United States. With a significant budget, the NRA wields significant influence over members of Congress, particularly in shaping gun policy.

Throughout multiple election cycles, the NRA, along with other organizations, has consistently outspent their counterparts in the gun control lobby, allocating more resources to promote pro-gun rights messaging.

Current U.S. gun legislation

Gun ownership in the United States is rooted in the Second Amendment of the Constitution: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

However, the right to bear arms is not without limitations. The Congress and state legislatures hold the authority to enact controlling legislation, and the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld certain firearms restrictions. These include prohibitions on concealed weapons, possession of specific weapon types, and limitations on gun sales to certain people.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 sets restrictions on individuals under eighteen, convicted criminals, the mentally disabled, dishonorably discharged military personnel, and others from buying firearms. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 mandates background checks for unlicensed individuals buying firearms from federally authorized dealers.

While federal law establishes the foundation for firearms regulation in the United States, states and cities can impose additional restrictions.

As of 2023, there were no federal laws prohibiting semiautomatic assault weapons, military-style 50-caliber rifles, handguns, or large-capacity magazines. Furthermore, there was no federal requirement for firearm safety training for gun buyers. The federal prohibition on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, in effect from 1994 to 2004, was not renewed by Congress.

In recent years, there has been ongoing congressional debate over potential changes to existing gun laws, often sparked by high-profile mass shootings.