Yesterday marked the four-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooting, which resulted in 27 deaths (not including the gunman), is the deadliest incident at an elementary or high school in United States history. At the time, the shooting and the subsequent media coverage caused a return to the debate over gun control across the U.S. Four years and numerous mass shootings later, has anything changed?
A report released this week by gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety has highlighted the 200-plus school shootings that have taken place since Sandy Hook. According to the organization’s data, there have been 201 shooting incidents at schools across America in the past four years, resulting in 94 deaths and 156 injuries.
Following the Sandy Hook shooting, it was widely believed that the shocking nature of the incident and the age of the children involved would bring about a change in gun control legislation in the United States. While there has been some progress at state level, attempts to push gun control laws through Congress have been repeatedly blocked.
One significant area of the gun control debate is the restriction of automatic and semi-automatic weapons. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, California Senator Dianne Feinstein appeared on Meet The Press to announce her intention to reintroduce a ban on automatic weapons. The ban would restrict access to assault-style weapons such as the Bushmaster XM-15 used at Sandy Hook. A similar ban was in effect at a federal level following a series of mass shootings in the ’90s, but was allowed to expire in 2004.
While the ban is yet to come into effect federally, several states have introduced their own legislation on the restriction of automatic weapons.
— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) December 14, 2016
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy is a similarly vocal supporter of gun control. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Murphy explains the issues he has faced introducing gun safety legislation.
“In the wake of Sandy Hook, I know that there were Republicans who wanted to vote with us, but didn’t feel like they could break with the gun lobby. You know, it’s beyond my comprehension how people can be OK with doing absolutely nothing in the face of this slaughter.”
Shannon Watts is the founder of organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which was started after the Sandy Hook shooting. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Watts describes the need for policy at a federal level.
“What is needed is a federal solution, because this is a national crisis.”
Last week the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research released data concluding that allowing guns on college campuses is unlikely to reduce casualties in mass shooting situations. This is in direct contrast to a continued push by gun control lobbyists to allow the carrying of firearms inside schools from K-12 as well as on college campuses. So far these bills have been rejected thanks to the continued efforts of the education community and organizations such as Everytown for Gun Safety.
Pro-gun control groups had a win this week when President Obama signed into law the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016. The legislation aims to help with the diagnosis and treatment of the estimated 50 percent plus of mental health disorders that go untreated in the United States. It is hoped that the act will help individuals such as the Sandy Hook shooter who is reported to have been untreated for several significant mental health issues.
While the act is no doubt a step in the right direction, some psychiatrists and gun safety advocates have warned against painting gun violence as a strictly mental health issue.
Jeffrey Swanson, professor of psychology at Duke University, has spoken to the Huffington Post on the issue.
“I caution against viewing the problem of gun violence through the prism of mass shootings or mental illness. The vast majority of people with mental illness are never violent.”
Many experts believe the best way to prevent gun violence is by restricting Americans’ access to guns, particularly among juveniles, criminals, and the mentally ill. While there are currently several bills that aim to do this awaiting vote by Congress, it stands to be seen what impact Trump, whose 2016 campaign was the recipient of $30 million in donations from the National Rifle Association, will have on the debate.
[Featured Image by Handout/Getty Images]