It’s a staggering number: as of last week, there have been 147 mass shooting events in the United States (defined as three or more people being shot) so far in 2021.
From Atlanta to Boulder to Indianapolis and many more across the country.
“We’re seeing the reality of too many years of failure play out in front of our eyes these past few weeks with day after day of shootings. There’s a lot of work to do, President Biden is engaged, he wants gun safety legislation passed,” said Fred Guttenberg, who became a gun safety activist after his daughter, Jaime, was murdered in the Parkland massacre.
Guttenberg says Biden has made a good start on curbing gun violence without infringing on gun rights, pointing out his recently-signed executive orders regulating so-called ghost guns, adding money to the School Violence Protection program, and encouraging states to pass red flag laws, as Florida already did.
Red flag laws, also called extreme risk protection order laws, allow police to seize guns from people deemed to be mentally unstable.
“We passed gun safety in Florida after Parkland, we did, we raised the age to 21, we passed red flag laws, we put in process a waiting period, there’s not a single lawful gun owner that spends one second thinking about what we did in Florida because it doesn’t affect them,” Guttenberg said, referring to the law signed by former Gov. Rick Scott just weeks after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings.
The law was passed after intense advocacy by the MSD victims’ families.
While mass shootings draw most of the attention, in this country, the vast majority of gun deaths involve either suicide or random murders in the community, and that’s what Tangela Sears has been fighting against since 2015.
“I actually was hospitalized because I could not bear the loss of my child,” Sears said.
Six years ago, Sears founded Florida Parents of Murdered Children after David Queen, her only child, was shot to death. The group advocates for victims’ rights as well as measures to stop gun violence.
“The killings that go on in our community, they are not people that go and purchase guns, they don’t go to gun shows, they break into your house and they steal your gun,” Sears said.
She’s all for expanded background checks, like the type the Biden Administration wants Congress to pass into law, but says that won’t stop the violence in her community. Sears also supports Biden’s $5 billion proposal to fund gun violence prevention programs, but she says the biggest problem in Liberty City, for example, is a lack of deterrence.
“I would say all the killers are getting away with it, very rare do you hear of a killer going to jail after someone is killed,” Sears maintains.
She is calling for Biden to send federal law enforcement agencies to get involved with local murder cases, to use the RICO statute to bust up drug gangs and for their ability to protect witnesses.
“See something, say something, I mean it’s great and I say it, but they’re afraid, we’re talking about witnesses that’s afraid, we’re talking about witnesses losing their lives because someone even thinks they talked to the police,” Sears said.
“I don’t think they’ve done anything that will actually reduce gun deaths in the United States,” said Ryan Petty, speaking about the Administration’s efforts during the first 100 days of the Biden presidency.
Petty is a steadfast supporter of gun rights, even though he lost his daughter, Alaina, in the Parkland massacre. Petty says Biden is focusing on restricting gun ownership instead of promoting threat assessment protocols developed by the U.S. Secret Service.
“The answer that President Biden is looking for is literally standing in front of him, the U.S. Secret Service knows how to identify these attackers and knows how to get them into treatment that will prevent these tragedies,” Petty explained. “These targeted attacks, anyway, are preventable, they’re preventable because there are warning signs that are given off by these attackers.”
That’s when red flag laws are valuable, and Petty does support them but says Biden should be promoting nationwide police training to effectively use extreme risk protection orders before a crime is committed.
“Law enforcement needs to manage these threats, it’s a real shift in the way law enforcement deals with threats,” said Petty, who maintains police agencies must adjust to going beyond waiting for a crime to be committed before they act.
The bottom line is, of course, that it’s too early to judge Biden’s record on gun violence. It’s also clear that advocates on all sides will be pressing him to do more.