Washington, D.C. — While much of the country’s attention in 2020 was focused on the global pandemic, widespread calls for racial justice and police accountability, and a chaotic presidential election, another public health crisis continued unabated with little notice: gun violence.
Early data suggest that there were more than 19,000 murders committed with a gun in 2020; across more than two dozen major cities, homicides increased by 36 percent, with a disproportionate burden of this violence falling on communities of color. Even with fewer gatherings and smaller crowds, there were more than 600 mass shootings in 2020—defined as incidents where at least four people were shot. And 2020 was a historic year in terms of gun sales, which increased dramatically compared with previous years.
It’s less than one month old, but 2021 has already provided a new administration and a shift in control of Congress, opening the door to legislative and executive action to help curb the public health crisis of gun violence. Though the pandemic response and economic recovery rightly draw most of the attention in Washington, D.C., these days, there is more than one public health crisis plaguing the American people, cutting lives short, and ruining families in its wake.
“We can’t be fooled by the lack of headlines; there is a mass shooting in this country nearly every day, and 2020 was no exception,” said Chelsea Parsons, vice president of Gun Violence Prevention at the Center for American Progress. “After four years of an administration that coddled the gun lobby and was willfully blind to the true scope of gun violence in this country, it is crucial that the new Congress and administration act quickly to take steps that we know will have an impact on reducing violence and saving lives.”
In a new CAP column, Parsons lays out a dozen policy priorities to address the crisis—either through legislation, executive, or budgetary action—including:
- Enacting universal background checks
- Closing the so-called Charleston loophole
- Ensuring that all domestic abusers are unable to purchase and possess a firearm
- Increasing funding for community-based violence intervention programs
- Increasing access to and transparency around gun violence data
- Shifting federal prosecutorial priorities related to gun crime
For years, lawmakers in Washington have failed to listen to the American people, who overwhelmingly support commonsense legislation to address gun violence. Each failure is punctuated by another gun-fueled tragedy. The time to implement a comprehensive federal approach to gun violence was yesterday. Barring that, the only acceptable option is to take the first steps toward a solution today.
For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Adam Peck at gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcepa.