Gun Control
September 3, 2019
Can the nation find common ground in the wake of mass shootings?

As mass shootings continued to rock the nation, gun control groups and leading Democrats stepped up their push for stricter gun control laws. A national poll in May found that more than 60 percent of registered voters supported stiffer measures, including more-extensive background checks and a ban on the sale of assault weapons. The 2018 midterm elections marked the first national election in which gun control groups outspent the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has been beset by internal feuds. But gun-rights groups remain formidable, and most congressional Republicans oppose tougher gun laws, saying background checks and other measures are ineffective. Amid the debate, the federal government released figures showing that firearms were involved in nearly 40,000 deaths — nearly two-thirds of them suicides — in 2017, the most in decades.

A sign calling for an assault-weapons ban is displayed near a voter registration table in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 7 during a protest against President Trump’s visit to the city, where a mass shooting had left 22 people dead and more than two dozen injured. (Getty Images/Mario Tama) A sign calling for an assault-weapons ban is displayed near a voter registration table in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 7 during a protest against President Trump’s visit to the city, where a mass shooting had left 22 people dead and more than two dozen injured. (Getty Images/Mario Tama)

Mass shootings less than 24 hours apart in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in early August have led to increased calls for stronger gun control measures, and some Republican lawmakers have begun to express support for limited changes. President Trump, who initially seemed to support stricter measures such as universal background checks, has given mixed signals on his intent.

Immediately after the shootings, Trump said he was talking with members of Congress about requiring tougher background checks for gun purchasers, and said in a national address on Aug. 5 that he supported “red flag laws,” which allow law enforcement officials to take guns away from people who authorities determine to be a threat to themselves or others. But by mid-month he seemed to be back-pedaling, saying he was “very, very concerned with the Second Amendment,” adding, “people don’t realize we have very strong background checks right now.” He also said of shootings, “I don’t want people to forget that this is a mental health problem.” However, two days later, Trump said he favored plugging some loopholes in the background check system. 1

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