As of mid-February 2023, the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organization that tracks gun violence incidents across the country, has counted 80 mass shootings in the United States so far this year including the one at Michigan State University on February 13th and the massacre in Monterey Park, California on January 21st — the deadliest attack since the Uvalde, Texas massacre in May 2022.
Seven of this year’s shootings involved four or more fatalities. Between January 1st and Valentine’s Day 2023, more than 100 people have died in mass shootings.
Again, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, there were 647 mass shootings in 2022. More than 3,179 people were shot in mass shootings, resulting in 637 deaths, and more than 2,500 people were injured.
As a father and a grandfather, I’m overwhelmed and outraged by the scourge of gun violence in America. I believe most Americans are.
Have we had enough, yet?
Let’s be honest. What’s fueling gun violence is greed. America’s gruesome glorification of guns is driven by profiteering – bold-faced, balance sheet-based greed on the part of gun manufacturers, gun dealers, collectors, and conventions. The Second Amendment? That’s just a cover for the money grab.
In my memoir, Not Your Father’s America, I write about a roughly 18-year window from 1995, when our triplet sons were born, until 2013. That’s when our boys went off to college and our house suddenly became very quiet. In the book, I comment on various alarming things that have happened in the America we’re leaving to our sons. Most are examples of how the wholesale deregulation of America across the past 40 years has given rise to new levels of greed with tragic consequences.
Indeed, the epidemic of mass shootings in America that we, and our children, have witnessed is largely the result of deregulation. The year before our boys were born, Congress passed a ban on assault weapons in America. That’s right. We had a ban on assault weapons for 10 years, from 1994 until 2004 when George W. Bush was re-elected, and our triplets were nine years old. The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, commonly called the federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB and AWB 1994), which also included a ban on high-capacity magazines, lasted for 10 years, expiring in September 2004 because of a 10-year “sunset” provision.
The sun set alright – on thousands of American families left mourning the death of loved ones killed by assault weapons since 2004.
Miraculously, gun violence hasn’t touched our family, as it has so many thousands of families. Our children never attended a school where students were massacred. They never had to take part in “active shooter drills.” The zip codes and the socio-economic status of the two communities in which we were able to raise our kids no doubt provided a measure of protection. Although racism and hatred seem endemic to most parts of America these days, we were fortunate not to live where the intersection of the two led to mass murder. We were lucky. And when our sons went from California to college on the East coast – two to the University of Virginia and one to Cornell – they were lucky.
Fact Worth Checking: 43 million guns were purchased by Americans in the last two years. 43 million. There are now more guns in the U.S. than people. 393.3 million. That’s how many guns were in U.S. civilians’ hands in 2018, about 120 guns for every 100 people, according to a study by the Swiss-based Small Arms Survey. Others place the number even higher, at 434 million in 2020.
Until January of 2023, when a 66-year-old and a 72-year-old became mass murderers, the majority of mass shootings were carried out by young killers between the ages of 18 and 25 using weapons of war designed to eliminate human beings.
Mass shootings in America are no longer rare; they’re commonplace, in all sorts of communities. And we are tolerating them. Even though the vast majority of us, including gun owners, are appalled by the carnage, we seem powerless to stop it.
But are we?
We don’t have to keep tolerating this. Mass shootings can be prevented. But we have to stand up and fight for real change. Here’s how:
- Only elect local, state, and federal officials who declare their support for sensible gun regulation. Stop electing folks who take money from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and refuse to publicly stand up for the safety of their constituents. And stop supporting any member of Congress who was wearing an AR-15 lapel pin before the State of the Union.
- Restore the national ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. No kidding. If a candidate isn’t in favor of banning assault weapons, and won’t work to pass the ban, don’t vote for them.
- Outlaw the purchase of body armor by anyone who isn’t a peace officer or in the military and require them to register at the point of purchase. We don’t believe you need tactical gear to go hunting, so give us your name, address, and a photo.
- Implement a nationwide buy-back program to pay gun owners to surrender assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and semi-automatic pistols in exchange for a generous, non-taxable cash payment. While the impact of such programs can be debated, in response to its deadliest terrorist attack in March 2019, New Zealand passed a ban and held a months-long gun amnesty and buyback program. From a population of just five million, the program yielded more than 56,000 banned firearms and nearly 200,000 illegal gun parts. That would be a drop in the bucket in America, of course, but at least it would be a start.
- Require all guns to be licensed and gun owners to safely secure the guns they own so they can’t be accessed by children or others. We require everyone who drives a car or truck – both lethal devices – to be licensed. The same should be true for anyone who owns a gun – you must be trained, tested, and licensed.
- Pass a national law that makes gun manufacturers accountable and liable for their products. Practically every other industry in America is subject to civil liability that can be used as an important check on irresponsible and harmful industry practices. The greed-driven gun industry has enjoyed enormous exemptions from liability and accountability in court since President George W. Bush signed the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (“PLCAA”) in 2005. Why? Well, let’s just say back in April of 2000, when “W” was campaigning for president, he spoke at one fundraiser for the Republican Party that hauled in a record $21.3 million where one of the co-chairs was an executive of the National Rifle Association (NRA). For the NRA, buying Congress runs deep.
The indescribably painful and unnecessary carnage will not stop, and none of us will be safe anywhere in America until we regulate an industry that puts profits above people and senselessness above sanity. It’s long past time to confront America’s addiction to guns, regulate them sensibly, and deal with mass shootings like the deadly epidemic they are – a plague that’s killing us and robbing us of our freedoms.
Cort Casady has won two Emmy Awards and three NAACP Image Awards for his work as a television and documentary writer-producer. His memoir, Not Your Father’s America: An Adventure Raising Triplets in a Country Being Changed by Greed, was published on January 17th, 2023, the day after six people were killed in a mass shooting in Goshen, California.