Troutdale, Seattle, and Isla Vista have all grabbed headlines in recent weeks for violent school shootings that left 12 people dead and 16 injured, in total. Many say such stories are becoming all too familiar.
Speaking at a live forum from the White House on Tuesday, President Obama expressed his frustration over continued shootings in America. “Our levels of gun violence are off the charts,” he said. “There’s no advanced, developed country on earth that would put up with this.” He added, “This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me.”
Advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety estimates that at least 74 school shootings have taken place in the U.S. since the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Compare that data against the length of a typical school year, and the U.S. is averaging about 1.37 shootings per school week.
But a recent Gallup poll shows declining support for stricter gun laws and increasing support for loosening gun restrictions. The only major uptick in support of gun control came in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown shooting and is largely attributed to the Obama administration’s attempt to push gun safety regulations — an attempt that ultimately failed in Congress.
Some say progress is being made to curb gun violence, but the media is mischaracterizing the storyline. “The truth is that the recent media narratives are far from accurate," says the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Since Newtown, the same number of laws have been passed that strengthened gun regulations as those that have weakened them, but the substance of those laws differs greatly. "Of the states that enacted laws to strengthen gun regulation, eight states made very significant and, in some cases, sweeping changes to the way it regulates firearms. Alternatively, only four states enacted laws that have significantly weakened gun regulation," writes the Law Center.
Even then, a well-financed gun lobby is doing its best to strengthen gun rights and limit regulation. In the aftermath of the Newtown shooting, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre remarked that, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Rather than chalk up recent shootings to the prevalence of guns in America, LaPierre and others have said the answer to gun violence lies in reforming the U.S. mental health system. Jerry Henry, executive director of pro-gun group Georgia Carry, agrees that people are the real root of the problem. “I personally don't understand why everybody's so scared of [guns]. They don't do anything by themselves," he said.
The gun issue boils down to who is willing to fight, says the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. “For those who oppose tighter gun laws, it is an absolute passion and oftentimes the single most important issue on which they make decisions about which candidates to support,” he wrote. “For those who support further strictures on guns, it is an issue they believe in but not necessarily one on which they are willing to set aside everything else for.”
In his speech on Tuesday, Obama agreed that the status quo will remain unless the voting public prompts Congress to act. “If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change,” he said.
So what do you think?
Is gun violence the new normal? Vote and comment below.