Pass New Gun Laws Now


Two mass shootings in less than a week have left 18 dead. Once again, families are shattered. Once again, flags are at half-mast. Once again, strip malls are now memorial sites. After a year of lockdowns, does this burst of mass shootings suggest, as some have grimly said, that the U.S. is returning to normal?

In fact, though gun violence receded from the headlines in 2020, it never went away. Last year was the deadliest for gun homicides in more than two decades. Meanwhile, gun suicides skirted their all-time high. These lesser-seen tragedies also devastated families and communities, just as surely as the horrors in Colorado and Georgia. The causes of gun violence are undoubtedly complex, but better laws could have prevented many of these deaths.

Let’s be clear: America’s gun violence crisis is a policy crisis. The U.S. has more gun murders than any other country in the wealthy world, in part because guns are so accessible and laws are uniquely lax. Its gun suicide rate and gun injury rates are similarly high. And, of course, no other country has such a numbingly persistent mass shooting problem. The gunman who allegedly attacked a Colorado supermarket on Monday was born three days before the 1999 Columbine massacre, which introduced generations of U.S. schoolkids to “active shooter” drills. Such a scenario would be unthinkable in any other country.

Earlier this month, House lawmakers passed two bipartisan bills that would expand and strengthen the country’s background-check system, which currently misses about 1 in 5 gun sales. These policy fixes are broadly popular with the American public, including the vast majority of gun owners. They include strong safeguards to ensure all legal purchases can go forward. They would certainly not “confiscate” guns, as some have irresponsibly suggested.

But they would prevent firearms from falling into the hands of dangerous people — like the white supremacist who murdered nine worshipers at a South Carolina church in 2015. The system allowed him to purchase a gun he wasn’t legally eligible to buy, thanks to a loophole that one of the bills would close. The other bill would make the background-check system universal, closing gaps that exist for gun show and internet sales. This law will save lives. In the more than one dozen states that already have such universal background checks, gun homicide rates are nearly 10% lower

Other policy interventions are worth considering, including a new “red flag” law and a renewed assault-weapons ban. While Washington ponders, many cities and states are taking bold action to fight gun violence on their own. But the mass murders this past week show that gun violence is a national problem — one that demands a national solution. Lawmakers in the Senate have two smart fixes right on their desks. They should pass them without delay.

Editorials are written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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