On the three-year anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School shooting in Parkland, President Joe Biden called on Congress to enact long-awaited gun law reform.
The proposed reforms abide by some of the surviving MSD students’ wishes, including making background checks for gun buyers mandatory and banning assault rifles nationwide.
“Today, I am calling on Congress to enact common sense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets,” Biden wrote in a White House statement Sunday.
March for Our Lives, a movement started by MSD students after the shooting to encourage gun law reform and school safety, has asked for action to be taken for gun holders since 2018. The Biden administration shows potential in progressing firearm laws for those who have lost friends and family to gun violence.
A bill that would require background checks for gun purchasers, called the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, has made its way through the House and has been sitting in the Senate since Feb. 28 of that year, according to Congress’ website. The Senate needs to revisit and pass this bill immediately to meet Biden’s demands. Passing the bill won’t be much of an issue now anyway, considering the Senate is now majority Democrat and gun reform is a popular issue of the Democratic Party.
While a bill that could strengthen gun laws and save lives collects dust in the Senate, state gun laws continue to fail to sufficiently protect their citizens.
In Florida, a permit is not required to purchase a handgun, rifle or shotgun, according to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Firearms also do not need to be registered with the state nor do private sellers need to do background checks on their customers.
These laws are far too relaxed for a state that has experienced 180 mass shootings since 2014, according to nonprofit research group Gun Violence Archive.
Even though Florida citizens are not required to register their firearms, the state is still ranked No. 2 in most registered firearms in the U.S. by a 2019 survey by the U.S. Department of Justice, having 100,000 more registered firearms than No. 3 Virginia. Gun ownership in Florida far exceeds what is common throughout other states.
Making all gun owners undergo background checks and registering their weapons will help keep those who could become subject to gun violence safe. Some, like the leaders of the NRA, which currently has about 5 million members nationwide, believe background checks are useless since those who tend to fail background checks, i.e. criminals, usually use loopholes or illegal means to obtain firearms, according to the NRA website.
This argument does not take into account, though, the many people who will rightfully be prevented from gaining firearms through potential background checks. People like Nikolas Cruz, the perpetrator of the Parkland shooting who legally purchased the rifle he used despite having been expelled from his high school and maintaining severe psychological difficulties, should not be able to access powerful weapons so easily.
Research done in 2018 by the National Threat Assessment Service found that 1 in 3 mass shooters showed signs of a mental illness, including signs of either psychosis or suicidal tendencies, prior to their attacks. Background checks that include psychological evaluations or investigations into a buyer’s mental health history could stop sellers from putting firearms into the hands of those who need medical attention.
The banning of assault rifles will also prevent gun violence by eliminating weapons typically used for game hunting and the U.S. military, an item unnecessary to general Florida or U.S. citizens.
With Congress’ help, Biden will work to harden federal and Florida gun laws. During former President Donald Trump’s term, bump stocks, an attachment for semi-automatic rifles to help fire rapidly, were banned in the wake of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting. Yet, after the Parkland shooting, demands of students and devastated parents to further restrict access to firearms have continued to go unnoticed.
By pushing Congress to change gun laws, Biden is attempting to keep his promise of being a “president for all Americans,” as he said in his Jan. 20 inauguration speech. Gun law reform starting at the federal level will work to keep all Americans safe from firearm violence.