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OPINION: New year, new record breaking statistics on gun violence in the U.S.

‘Thoughts and prayers’ can only go so far with addressing this epidemic. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/FLICKR

A startling record of gun violence occurred in 2022, with 44,268 reported deaths in the U.S., according to a report released by the Gun Violence Archive. These numbers should make everyone afraid.

Thoughts and prayers can only go so far when addressing gun violence. Legislators must take a stronger stance on gun control, but instead they operate on the fantasy that weak red flag laws will deter mass shooters.

In May, two horrific shootings occurred. A white supremacist carried out a mass shooting targeting black people in Buffalo, New York on May 14. Just 10 days later, a gunman walked into Robb Elementary School and took the lives of 21 people – 19 students and 2 teachers, according to a May 27 report. Shockingly enough, these were only two of 648 mass shootings last year, according to the Gun Violence Archive

Following these mass shootings, Congress passed H.R.7910, or the “Protect our Kids Act,” on June 25. This is the first gun control bill to make its way into law with bipartisan support. The original bill included raising the minimum purchasing age to 21, banning assault rifles and making gun trafficking a federal crime. These were axed to achieve bipartisan support.

The bill did close “the boyfriend loophole,” which allowed partners convicted of domestic violence or stalking to obtain firearms. It also made it easier for states to enact red flag laws, which allow police or family members to petition the courts to temporarily remove firearms from an individual deemed dangerous to themselves or others. 

Only 20 states have red flag laws, according to a 2023 report by the World Population Review. However, these laws aren’t always enforced or carried out properly, and they aren’t as effective as they sound.

While the country felt at ease seeing a fraction of gun control legislation passing, Nov. 19 shook the nation to its core again. A 22-year-old gunman entered a gay nightclub, Club Q, in Colorado and began to open fire on the patrons, killing five and injuring dozens before being taken down by Retired Army Major Richard M. Fierro. Fierro was there with his daughter and some friends, including one of the five victims killed.

“This whole thing was a lot,” he said, choking back tears in an interview with CNN on Nov. 22. “My daughter, wife, should have never experienced combat in Colorado Springs, and everybody in that building experienced combat that night … because they were forced to.”

Colorado has red flag laws, but the Club Q shooter was able to purchase firearms even with a criminal record. Even after minimal gun control legislation was passed, a mass shooting still occurred and lives were lost, which raised the alarm to every citizen that the simple solutions don’t always work. 

There is a solution that does work. It isn’t a good guy with a gun, nor is it arming teachers in schools – it’s dealing with the source of mass shootings by signing legislation that restricts the sales of guns.

There have already been 22 mass shootings in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive

As 2023 begins, there needs to be real gun control that includes solutions like raising the age to purchase a firearm and the ban of assault rifles to decrease the everyday occurrence that is another usher of thoughts and prayers.

There’s nothing normal about mass shootings. We say it’s acceptable to grieve and be angry, but not angry enough to actually demand change. It’s always too soon to call for gun control, but not soon enough until another mass shooting.