As the world begins to heal from the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. will have to continue to deal with its own epidemic: gun violence. 

Americans’ lives are starting to revert back to normal and that includes the common occurrence of mass shootings. Only three months into 2021, there have been 119 mass shootings, resulting in over 10,000 gun violence-related deaths, according to the Gun Violence Archive. According to the Congressional Research Service, mass shootings are defined as multiple firearm homicide incidents, involving four or more victims at one or more close locations.

As restrictions are lifting up and people are allowed to regain a part of their social lives, they shouldn’t have to fear being gunned down in public. People not only carry the fear of contracting COVID-19, but they also have to live with the anxiety over the next mass shooting. We shouldn’t have to sit back and watch as these horrific scenes play out repeatedly on our TV screens.  

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said it best: “We are the only high income country where ‘getting back to normal’ after a pandemic means shootings resume in places where people should be safe.”

Shootings should not be a sign that the nation is recovering from anguish. 

Despite lockdowns, gun sales hit a record high in 2020, one of the most violent years in decades, as more than 19,000 people were fatally shot, according to Time magazine. Upon observing the alarming rate at which gun violence is soaring, it is troubling that it may worsen as more businesses reopen and we see more people outside of their homes. 

From Acworth, Georgia to Boulder, Colorado, it appears as though these shootings are happening one after another, only a few days apart. These tragedies hit home for many, like the shooting in Orange on Wednesday that killed four victims including a 9-year-old boy.

Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could not conduct research for 20 years on gun violence due to the Dickey Amendment, which was overturned in 2018, there are very few answers as to why this happens. The lack of official research on an issue that kills thousands each year is unacceptable. 

This kind of violence can be triggered by racism, as witnessed with the shooting at Young’s Asian Massage in Georgia and claimed the lives of eight people, six of which were Asian women. Personal issues like finances or relationships can also trigger it, but more often the motives behind these attacks are unclear. 

Since the Atlanta-area occurrence, conversations about hate crimes and gun violence have surged throughout the country, even prompting local officials to hold rallies or press conferences, such as the one at Fullerton City Hall. 

But simply denouncing the actions of these perpetrators is not enough. 

In a humiliating display of events, Rep. Lauren Boebert’s campaign in Colorado sent emails urging civilians to vote “no” on gun control just two hours after a shooting at a supermarket within her state. Boebert responded to the shooting with an ironic tweet saying, “senseless acts of violence are never OK.”

As long as right-wing gun-toters, like Boebert, continue to place outdated interpretations of the constitution over the lives of thousands, there will be no progress. Similarly, Democrats who control the Senate and the House seem to fail in reaching a consensus for the best plan of action, essentially placing legislation on the back burner.

It is important to note that, if passed, not all legislation will be enforced — but it is a starting point. Prayers, condolences and colorful infographics on social media don’t even begin to resolve the nation’s deep-seated fascination with violence. 

As the days go on and media outlets continue to show images of tragedies, it feels as though there is no end in sight. We can only hope that with official policies and open minds on behalf of all citizens, the country can begin to heal from this epidemic. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the issues we’ve faced for years, including gun control and violence. With this new perspective, implementing the action that’s been desperately needed is the only way to move forward. 

Some may believe that the federal government cannot and should not regulate guns, but if that were true there would be no entity left to monitor the ever-growing industry. With a rise in gun sales in concurrence with increased gun violence rates, it can be determined that this data did not happen in separate vacuums, but instead are connected. 

Lawmakers can enact meaningful change and get to the root of America’s gun obsession, and they can start by listening to their constituents. 

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