Why Independence Day shooting shows gun control resolution is still out of reach

Almost 53 people a day are intentionally killed by guns in the US.

Many of them are mass shootings – attacks in public places where multiple people are killed. The latest shooting spree came at a Fourth of July parade in a city 25 miles north of Chicago, when a man opened fire from a shop rooftop, randomly targeting people enjoying the event. Six people were killed and others injured.

As is the case in many of these situations, the gunman is believed to have obtained the gun legally.

Illinois governor JB Pritzker has described the problem as a “uniquely American plague”, while others have taken to social media to express their outrage.

Belongings are shown left behind at the scene of a mass shooting along the route of a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois.

US Olympic figure skater Jason Brown, who lives in Highland Park, said he had woken up this morning “unable to find the words”.

"The parade has always been a celebration of unity and pride,” he said. “Now our stomachs are knotted and our hearts are broken. We are better than this, America. When will we learn. When will enough be enough?”

Yet despite mass outrage and mourning, the problem is getting worse.

In 2020, 45,000 Americans were killed due to gunshot wounds. Of that figure, more than 19,000 were murders or manslaughters – ie injury with intent to kill. This is in addition to the remaining 25,000 deaths, which were accidents because guns are just so ubiquitous, which is terrifying in itself.

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Following another mass shooting at a primary school in Texas last month, US president Joe Biden signed an historic federal bill on gun safety backed by both Republicans and Democrats – the first in nearly 30 years.

The bill requires stricter checks on young people and encourages states to implement “red flag laws”, which allow them to remove firearms from people considered a threat. However, on the same day, as Biden himself admitted he hadn’t been able to reach a cross-party agreement on everything he wanted to do, a local New York law was overturned that placed strict restrictions on carrying concealed firearms outside the home.

Republicans support the US right to bear arms – ostensibly to be able to defend themselves – while Democrats want to restrict gun access in a bid to prevent more killings. It is difficult to see how a resolution can be found.

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