Alex Fleming never thought she would be a victim of gun violence−until she was struck by two bullets on her way to dinner.
“It’s just so scary,” Fleming told USA TODAY. “These mass shootings haven’t slowed down. If anything, they’ve ramped up and I know I’m more hyper aware after my incident, but it literally feels like every second of the day…you’re seeing another person dying of guns.”
There have been at least 236 mass shootings in the country so far this year, leaving 306 individuals dead and 938 injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit publicly sourced database that defines a mass shooting as at least four people struck by gunfire.
Despite the nation’s growing epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings, Congress has been slow to act – only passing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the largest gun reform bill in three decades, last June after two deadly mass shootings.
Now, days after nation’s latest mass shooting at a suburban Texas outdoor mall and upon the first anniversary of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas – the second deadliest school shooting in the country’s history – some House Republicans are pushing legislation to repeal all recent bipartisan gun control measures.
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‘Hard to grapple’ with feeling safe
Nearly two years ago, Fleming was struck by two bullets – one piercing her lung, the other grazing her liver – in a drive-by shooting that left her in the hospital for two weeks. The shooting happened on her way to meet a friend for dinner, walking along a route she routinely traveled to Columbia Heights in Washington, D.C.
The 30-year-old was already a supporter of stronger gun reform. But after being shot, she developed a sense of urgency around gun control legislation she hadn’t previously felt.
“I think it’s very common to think ‘Oh it’s never going to happen to me’ and ‘This is a problem happening elsewhere,’” Fleming said.
Over 48,000 people died from gun-related injuries in 2021 – a 23% increase from the roughly 39,000 deaths in 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of gun murders has also grown since 2019, accounting for nearly 21,000 of those gun-related injury deaths in 2021 – a 45% increase.
For Fleming, those statistics only reinforce the concerns she has had since having two bullets strike her chest.
“It’s hard to grapple with like the fact of feeling safe ever again,” she added. “Unfortunately, I think that’s a feeling that a lot of Americans are feeling.”
More than 80% of adults say they’ve taken at least one precaution to protect themselves or their families from the possibility of gun violence, including avoiding large crowds and public transportation, according to recent polling from KFF, a nonpartisan nonprofit focused on health policy.
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The survey – conducted from March 14-23 – also found that 51% of adults considered gun-related crimes, injuries and deaths a “constant threat” or a “major concern but not a constant threat” in their local communities.
Efforts by Democrats in Congress to pass gun reform has stalled since the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which followed the deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where a white 19-year-old gunman killed 10 Black people at a supermarket. The Uvalde massacre, in which a former student allegedly killed 19 children and two teachers, came just ten days after that.
House GOP looks to repeal landmark gun control measures
Days after the May 6 mass shooting in Allen, Texas, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado introduced legislation to repeal all “gun control provisions and every Second Amendment Infringement” passed from early 2021 to early 2023 and signed into law by President Joe Biden.
“I unapologetically support the Second Amendment,” Boebert said in a statement, calling gun control measures “nonsense” and saying she will “stand for law-abiding Americans and the Constitution.”
The bill – the Shall Not be Infringed Act – would target provisions in several pieces of legislation, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which earned the support of 15 Republican senators.
The bipartisan legislation expanded background checks on gun buyers under 21 to include their mental health and juvenile justice records. It also imposed a required waiting period of 10 business days for the seller and authorities to complete the review, in addition to incentivizing states to pass red flag laws. All of those changes would be rescinded under the Colorado lawmaker’s bill.
“It’s a complete slap in the face to all the victims and families who’ve lost loved ones, and not just them. It’s a slap in the face of the entire country,” Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., told USA TODAY. “The majority of Americans want common sense gun reform. The majority of Republicans want common sense gun reform.”
Frost, a staunch advocate for gun reform, has been a leader in the effort to end gun violence since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. The Florida Democrat also served as the first national organization director for March for Our Lives after the Parkland high school shooting in 2018.
Sixteen House Republicans cosponsored Boebert’s proposed bill, including Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona, Byron Donalds of Florida and Troy Nehls of Texas.
Measures in the 2023 Appropriations Omnibus bill, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2023 and the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act would also be at risk under the proposed legislation. That includes the 14.1% budget increase for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to fortify efforts to prevent and respond to gun violence.
While Boebert’s legislation is unlikely to become law or even go to the floor for a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate, it’s disheartening to those like Fleming.
“I think until we do something no one is immune from it, and we shouldn’t think we’re immune from it. I am the first person to tell you that,” she said.
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