After massacres, a bipartisan agenda on firearms is urgently needed

José López Zamorano | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: Maria Lysenko / Unsplash

During his presidency, Barack Obama made no secret of his frustration over what had become a macabre ritual: in the aftermath of yet another callous shooting massacre, Obama was heading home to call for legislative changes, but the tragedies and the words of the president fell on deaf ears among many in Congress.

The obligatory question: Just because some politicians fail to fulfill their responsibility, should we or should we not continue to propose and demand significant legal reforms for the safe and responsible use of firearms? The answer is a resounding yes.

One day after the recent tragedy in Monterey Park, where a lone killer murdered or injured seniors, a group of Democratic Senators, Dianne Feinstein of California, as well as Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, introduced a pair of bills to protect communities from assault weapons. Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island will introduce a supplemental version of the Assault Weapons Ban in the House of Representatives.

“It’s time we stand up to the gun lobby and get these weapons of war off our streets, or at least keep them out of the reach of young people,” said Senator Feinstein.

The Assault Weapons Ban measure – similar to the one that expired in 2004 during the George W. Bush presidency – would ban the sale, transfer, manufacture and import of 205 military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and other high capacity ammunition feeding devices.

That includes the weapon used by the Monterey Park shooter who killed 11 people and injured 9 more amongst Lunar New Year celebrations.

The Act would increase the minimum age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21, the same requirement that currently exists in the law for handguns. It requires a background check on any future sale, trade, or gift of an assault weapon covered by the bill, among other provisions.

President Biden praised the Democratic lawmakers who introduced the bills. “The majority of the American people agree with this common-sense action. There can be no greater responsibility than doing everything possible to ensure the safety of our children, our communities, and our nation.”

Last year, after the Buffalo massacre, Biden signed bipartisan legislation into law that strengthened background checks for gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21 and clarified the definition of a federally licensed firearms dealer.

That data should be enough to think that it is possible to build a bipartisan agenda on the safety of firearms. Sadly, the Republican majority is held hostage by an ultra-conservative, radical, and combative minority that will fight with all means to prevent the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. But as long as massacres that perhaps could have been prevented continue to occur, it is an obligation of civil society to continue demanding that politicians live up to their historical responsibility or pay for it at the ballot box.