Mass Shootings

The United States has experienced many mass shootings, especially within the last several decades. These tragedies spark intense debate over gun violence in America and how we can prevent it.

Updated:
Jun 23, 2022
| Published:
Jun 23, 2022
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Using the mass shooting definition from the Gun Violence Archive (three or more people shot or killed), the United States has averaged roughly ten mass shootings per week in 2021. Mass media has visualized the importance of fighting against gun violence. Much of this political communication has culminated in the March for Our Lives demonstrations which followed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

History

Gun Control Act (1968)

Following the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., Congress introduced and passed the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968. The Act revised the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 by implementing a stricter licensing protocol, expanding ownership prohibitions, and broadening the federal definition of a firearm. The GCA redefined firearm offenses to include new categories of gun-related violence. It also restricted various models of imported firearms, though it did not control domestic production of those same models. It is the first Act to explicitly deem it illegal for mentally ill individuals to own a firearm. 

Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (1994)

The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, also known as the Assault Weapons Ban, prohibited the manufacture, transfer, and civilian ownership of assault-style rifles, listed manufacturers by name, and magazines that held more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The law passed by a 52-48 vote in the Senate. The Act included a “sunset provision,” a compromise that meant it would automatically be repealed after a decade unless renewed by the sitting Congress in 2004. 

In 2004, Congress failed to renew the Act. Research shows that while the ban was effective at preventing mass shootings, rates of handgun violence remained essentially unchanged. The original bill also included many loopholes. For example, the provisions did not entirely ban assault weapons; some older models were initially legal under the ban. Once the law expired, the production and distribution of these firearms became legal again.

Columbine High School (1999)

At the time, the Columbine High School shooting was the worst high school shooting ever, adding more fuel to the rising political debate regarding gun control. Two students began their rampage outside the school: After only 16 minutes, the pair had killed 12 students and one teacher, in addition to injuring 20 others. Their original plan was to set off two propane bombs in the school, but they began their shooting spree when the bombs did not detonate. The tragedy had a lasting impact on the gun control debate, as it was the first major mass shooting to happen at a high school. Additionally, people across the nation watched the shooting unfold on national news networks, watching the police search the campus and urgently evacuating students. The shooting felt personal even to those who did not have a direct connection to Columbine.

Sandy Hook Elementary School (2012)

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting prompted an especially visceral public response due to the age of the victims. Twenty children (mostly aged 6 and 7) and six adults were killed with two semi-automatic pistols, an AR-15, and a shotgun. The tragedy sparked debate about the relevance of the Second Amendment in the era of high-capacity assault rifles. Many gun control activists drew attention to the type of weapon and the magazines the shooter obtained, which would have been illegal under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004. 

Sutherland Springs Church Shooting (2017)

Shortly after the Las Vegas music festival shooting, another mass shooting occurred at a rural church in Texas. A young man began shooting outside the church and took the lives of 26 people. During an exchange of gunfire with an armed civilian, and multiple gunshot wounds, he took his own life. An investigation revealed that the shooter had multiple weapons in his car, though Texas officials had previously denied him a right-to-carry permit. Additionally, he was discharged from the Air Force for bad behavior and had two charges of assaulting his spouse and child. With the newly revealed information, debates ensued about the efficacy of the current background checks system. It simultaneously raised the question of what would have happened had the civilian not been armed.

Mass Shootings

Since the turn of the century, the United States has experienced scores of mass shootings. Using the mass shooting definition from the Gun Violence Archive (three or more people shot or killed), the United States has averaged roughly ten mass shootings per week in 2021. Globally, the United States has one of the highest incidents of mass shootings, especially for a developed nation.

Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, gun control advocates took to the streets, protesting the issues of gun violence and mass shootings. Unlike past protests, students predominantly led the charge, spearheading school walkouts around the country. Survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting led the demonstration March for Our Lives, a national protest in Washington D.C. that drew significant media attention and added fuel to the gun control movement.

Discussion Questions

  1. Explain why you believe the US averaging 10 mass shootings per week should or should not require immediate action.
  2. Do you support the idea that an armed civilian can successfully prevent the severity of a mass shooting?
  3. Could any gun control measures prevent mass shootings from happening?

History

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Narratives

Left Narrative

In 2021 alone, there were 693 mass shootings in the United States. This figure is not only a national embarrassment but an unspeakable tragedy. For decades, Americans have had to fear gun violence at their stores, houses of worship, and schools. Congress must act now to pass strict gun control legislation, including a federal assault weapons ban, red flag laws, and expanding and strengthening the current background checks system. These steps are necessary to stop mass shootings and protect the American people.

Right Narrative

Mass shootings are always tragic misuses of firearms by evil individuals. Often, the Democratic Party uses mass shootings to push policies with little consideration on whether they would have prevented the mass shooting. This is best seen when March for Our Lives prevented the brother of a school shooting victim from speaking at their D.C. event because he supported Republican measures to prevent mass shootings. On many occasions, a responsible gun owner could have prevented additional casualties by using their own firearm, such as in the Sutherland Church shooting. Good people with guns will always be needed to stop bad people with guns.

Bipartisan Narrative

Mass shootings are always tragic misuses of firearms by evil individuals. Often, the Democratic Party uses mass shootings to push policies with little consideration on whether they would have prevented the mass shooting. This is best seen when March for Our Lives prevented the brother of a school shooting victim from speaking at their D.C. event because he supported Republican measures to prevent mass shootings. On many occasions, a responsible gun owner could have prevented additional casualties by using their own firearm, such as in the Sutherland Church shooting. Good people with guns will always be needed to stop bad people with guns.

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Classroom Content

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