Two mass shootings in 48 hours earlier this month in the U.S. State of California, claiming 18 lives, have been yet another grave reminder of the plague of gun violence confronting the world’s most powerful country. On January 21, in California’s Monterey Park, a gunman massacred 11 people in the country’s deadliest mass shooting so far this year. Two days later, seven people were killed in Half Moon Bay, in northern California. A few hours later, a shooting in Oakland resulted in one person being killed and seven others injured. “Tragedy upon tragedy,” was California Governor Gavin Newsom’s lament about the shootings. U.S. President Joe Biden, once again, called for a ban on assault weapons. Besides these statements, it is doubtful whether the U.S. Congress would pass any meaningful gun control laws. In January alone, there have been 38 shooting incidents in 17 different U.S. States. In the U.S., where the Second Amendment assures citizens of the right to bear arms, there are about 120 firearms for every 100 residents. Yet, despite repeated mass shootings, the U.S. still does not have strong national-level gun control laws. Every time a mass shooting takes place, Presidents issue strong statements and calls for legislative action, which fall on deaf ears.
Last year, after an 18-year-old former student shot down 19 elementary schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas, Congress passed the widest firearms legislation, the first in three decades, which expanded background checks for gun purchasers under 21 and imposed penalties on gun trafficking and straw purchases. Though widely welcomed, it was not enough to control gun violence in a country with the world’s largest per capita guns. The Supreme Court’s decision last year to strike down a New York State law that placed restrictions on carrying guns outside the home by reaffirming the Second Amendment was a setback for attempts to bring in strict State-wise legislation. House Democrats passed an assault weapons ban last year, but it never reached Mr. Biden’s desk as the Bill was stalled in the Senate. Republicans have often invoked constitutional rights to stall legislation. The deep-pocketed and influential National Rifle Association and the powerful gun manufacturing industry have consistently opposed gun control measures, despite polls showing a vast desire for stricter controls. Everyone knows what needs to be done — tougher gun controls. But it is surprising and tragic that a democracy that takes pride in its values and a superpower that has gone to wars in the name of protecting its citizens, seems helpless when it comes to doing what has to be done even when hundreds of Americans get killed every year due to gun violence.
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