The U.S. once again faced the grim consequences of its unwillingness to tackle gun violence at its source when a man shot dead at least 19 children and two adults, including a teacher, at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The shooting marks the worst such attack in the U.S. since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attack in 2018, when a former student of the school in Parkland, Florida, opened fire, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others. A similar major shooting that led to outrage yet saw no permanent reform in guns laws occurred at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, in which 20 first graders and six school employees perished. The Uvalde tragedy has also shaken the nation for it comes scarcely 10 days after a shooting at a supermarket store in Buffalo, New York, which officials described as a racist hate crime, claiming 10 lives. Overall, there have been at least 26 school shootings in 2022 alone and at least 118 incidents since 2018, according to reports that have tracked this statistic over the past four years. Last year witnessed 34 school shootings, the highest number during this period; there were 24 incidents each in 2019 and 2018 and 10 in 2020. Addressing the nation after the Uvalde attack, U.S. President Joe Biden made an urgent plea for common-sense gun control reform, saying, “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?... I am sick and tired of it. We have to act... these kinds of mass shootings rarely happen elsewhere in the world… It’s time to turn this pain into action.”
Yet, it would be unrealistic to hope for meaningful change in the U.S.’s view on the Second Amendment, which assures citizens of the right to bear arms. Several Presidents, mostly Democrats, have tried and failed to get even basic gun control laws passed through Congress. Former President Barack Obama, for example, came away frustrated after Capitol Hill rejected no fewer than 17 attempts by his White House to bring common-sense gun control to the floor of Congress. While conservative lawmakers seek to score political points by fiercely defending the constitutional right to bear arms, it is common knowledge now that at the heart of the U.S. Congress’s refusal to stamp out gun violence in schools and other public spaces is shadowy lobbying on Capitol Hill by the deep-pocketed and well-networked National Rifle Association and, along with them, the entire gun manufacturing industry. If Mr. Biden genuinely wishes to clamp down on this violence, which has ripped into America’s soul for several generations now, he may have no choice but to follow in Mr. Obama’s steps and use his presidential power of executive actions to enforce gun control measures. These should, at a minimum, include an assault weapons ban, expanded background checks for gun ownership and boosted funding for federal enforcement agencies regulating gun proliferation.