I’ve written twice about gun violence in the last two months.

After a 28-year-old assailant walked into a private elementary school on the grounds of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, I called attention to certain citizens’ idolatry of the Second Amendment.

Now, another month goes by, and more shootings have taken place. In addition to the mass shooting in Allen, Texas, this week, there have been a string of shootings by property owners when children and teenagers mistakenly approached their houses and automobiles.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been over 200 mass shootings across the United States in 2023. Major news outlets define a mass shooting as an incident with four or more injuries or deaths.

In addition, Gun Violence Archive reported that “as of May 1, at least 13,959 people have died from gun violence in the U.S. this year, which is an average of roughly 115 deaths each day. Of those who died, 491 were teens, and 85 were children.”

In 2021, Pew Research reported: “Gun murders, in particular, have climbed sharply during the pandemic, increasing 45% between 2019 and 2021, while the number of gun suicides rose 10% during that span.”

Even more tragically, Pew data revealed: “The overall increase in U.S. gun deaths since the beginning of the pandemic includes an especially stark rise in such fatalities among children and teens under the age of 18. Gun deaths among children and teens rose 50% in just two years, from 1,732 in 2019 to 2,590 in 2021.”

As mass shootings and gun violence continue to escalate across the United States, one fact seems to be evident: putting more guns into circulation and providing easier access for individuals to purchase guns is not working.

We need reasonable and precise action to combat gun violence. And before we dive deep into the debate about guns versus mental health, it’s not a question of either/or but both/and.

According to Mental Health America, “The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent: 95-97% of homicidal gun violence is not carried out by individuals with a mental illness. However, suicide is often correlated with depression and is the number ten cause of death in adults nationwide (number three cause of death for youth in America).”

Therefore, for those wanting to address gun violence solely or primarily as a mental health issue, let’s turn our focus where the statistics lead us. The numbers suggest that  gun violence and suicide are directly linked, therefore, let’s invest in better social welfare programs addressing mental health.

Now, let’s address the comment from Mental Health America: “Individuals with a mental illness do not carry out ninety to ninety-five percent of homicidal gun violence.” If mental health is not connected to a vast majority of gun-related homicidal violence, then what is the cause?

Relaxed gun laws have allowed for a proliferation of firearms, particularly military-style weapons with high-capacity magazines.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. The Constitution states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

While U.S. citizens have the right to bear arms, the amendment clearly states that the right to bear arms needs to be well-regulated. Herein lies the problem. Instead of following a literal interpretation of the Second Amendment, states are thwarting their constitutional responsibilities and completely ignoring the “regulation” of keeping and bearing arms.

Statistica reported last month, “In July, Florida will become the 26th state in the U.S. that isn’t requiring a permit to carry a concealed gun in public.” These types of laws are not constitutional or in keeping with a literal interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Instead of regulating the keeping and bearing of arms (within a militia), state legislators in 26 states are making it easier for citizens to purchase, keep and bear arms. Where are the regulations?

Watch groups, like The Center for American Progress, point out, “If elected officials are serious about stopping violent crime, they need to prioritize and support stronger gun laws at both the state and federal levels.”

The center demonstrated how states with weaker gun laws produce more homicides. Their report concluded: “The states with the highest firearm mortality rates are Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Wyoming. These states all received an ‘F’ grade for their weak gun laws.”

In addition, they reported: “In 2020, the 10 states with the highest rates of gun deaths among children and teenagers ages 1–19 were Louisiana, Alaska, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Alabama.6 All of these states received an ‘F’ grade for their weak gun laws.”

Even though some politicians and pundits do not want to admit it, the reality is that weaker gun laws produce more violence. These are not alternative facts or skewing the data. These statistics are the truth. And just because some people ignore it, their avoidance does not make it less true.

Wanting to enforce current regulations and enact stricter gun laws does not mean an individual is automatically “anti-gun.” It does mean they are using evidence and facts to draw a reasonable conclusion.

Therefore, it’s beyond time to do something tangible and meaningful about gun violence. The federal government and state legislatures need to pass sensible gun legislation.

Currently, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, “While federal law requires background checks for all gun sales by licensed gun dealers, it does not require background checks for guns sold by unlicensed sellers, like non-dealers who sell guns online or at gun shows. This loophole enables people with felony convictions, domestic abuse restraining orders, and other people with prohibiting histories to buy guns with no questions asked.”

The loophole needs to be closed.

Also, there needs to be a ban on AR-15-style weapons. In response to the Texas shooting this week, NPR reported: “In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed an assault weapons ban, which banned the AR-15 and other similar semi automatic rifles. The ban made it illegal to manufacture the weapon while also setting a limit on high-capacity magazines.”

In the decade that followed, mass shootings went down. Unfortunately, the law expired in 2004.

Some state lawmakers are finally considering changes to current laws, such as the case in Texas. Lawmakers were considering raising the age to purchase an adult-style weapon to 21 years old, though it now seems unlikely to be enacted.

Even if this Texas law were to pass, more still needs to be done. The Biden administration is calling on Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. My hope and prayer are that legislators can finally be bold enough to pass meaningful and sensible gun legislation.

I have grown so tired of writing columns after another mass shooting, so if I am tired of writing, I cannot imagine how the victims of senseless gun violence feel.

Let’s finally do something about gun violence! If our lawmakers refuse, then let’s find different lawmakers.

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