As Congress Putters, the Gun Carnage Continues

Bullet holes in the window of a store front on South Street in Philadelphia, on June 5, 2022.Kriston Jae Bethel/AFP via Getty

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.While lawmakers discuss modest gun-safety measures that Senate Republicans are likely to block, the shooting carnage continue apace.
At least three people were killed and 11 injured Saturday when multiple people opened fire on Philadelphia’s busy South Street. At least three more died in a shooting later Saturday at a club in Chattanooga, Tennessee. For the moment, none of those six victims count as victims of “mass shootings”—a FBI designation that requires four deaths in a single incident. Still, Saturday’s mayhem adds to a seemingly never-ending drumbeat of deadly shootings in America—most quickly forgotten, upstaged by racial massacres like Buffalo and Charleston, or the recent, brutal ending of 19 innocent lives, mostly young children’s, in Uvalde.
Over time, even the most horrific incidents can become a blur: San Ysidro. Jacksonville. Kileen. Columbine. Red Lake. Virginia Tech. Birmingham. Ft. Hood. Aurora. Newtown. Washington Navy Yard. Isla Vista. Charleston. San Bernadino. Orlando. Las Vegas. Sutherland Springs. Parkland. Santa Fe. Pittsburgh. El Paso. Boulder. Buffalo. Uvalde. On and on it goes.

The gun control measures Congress is considering cannot, of course, end mass shooting. But as a New York Times analysis this weekend suggests, there is good reason to think that certain provisions, including thorough background checks and limits on high capacity magazines, taken in aggregate, could reduce the frequency and severity of mass—and other—shootings.

But GOP senators will, in all likelihood, use the filibuster, which lets them kill any legislation that can’t garner 60 Senate votes. While former New Jersey governor (and 2016 presidential candidate) Chris Christie claimed on ABC News Sunday that “both sides create the atmosphere” that prevents compromise on popular gun restrictions, the votes against expanded background checks, say, or raising to 21 the minimum age for the purchase of “long guns” (which include most assault rifles), will come largely, if not solely, from the Republican side. 

Those lawmakers—and the voters they fear crossing—seem to find this steady stream of mass shootings, mounting gun violence, and an epidemic of gun suicides preferable to tolerating even modest restrictions on access to deadly weapons. Lawmakers, like the rest of us, are defined by actions, not rhetoric. And the revealed preference of the United States Congress in 2022 is to allow regular instances of mass murder. Better that than more background checks.