On the heels of two mass shootings in one week, former President Barack Obama warned that leaders cannot rely on a pandemic to end this distinctly American phenomenon.
“A once-in-a-century pandemic cannot be the only thing that slows mass shootings in this country,” he wrote in a statement. “We shouldn’t have to choose between one type of tragedy and another. It’s time for leaders everywhere to listen to the American people when they say enough is enough—because this is a normal we can no longer afford.”
His remarks come a day after a gunman killed 10 people in Boulder, Colorado, striking just six days after another assailant shot and killed eight people in Atlanta, most of whom were Asian-American women. The tragedies followed a year of relatively few mass shooting incidents, as schools, places of worship, entertainment venues and other large gathering spots were all shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In so many ways, our lives may soon start to return to normal after a long, difficult year filled with so much loss,” Obama said of those gathering spaces beginning to reopen. “But in a normal life, we should be able to buy groceries without fear. We should be able to go to school, or go out with our friends, or worship together without mentally planning our escape if someone shows up with a gun. We should be able to live our lives without wondering if the next trip outside our home could be our last.”
In addition to combating the “disaffection, racism and misogyny that fuels so many of these senseless acts of violence,” he continued, lawmakers must act now to enact common sense gun legislation and “make it harder for those with hate in their hearts to buy weapons of war.”
The same day Obama offered his comments, President Joe Biden called for an assault weapon ban, reforms on background checks and broad changes to magazine capacity restriction.
“We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country,” he said from the White House.
Democrats in Congress have demanded action on gun control legislation following the two shootings, while Republicans have balked at their ideas. Before these deadly attacks, House Democrats passed two bills this month that sought to expand and strengthen background checks for gun buyers. Those bills’ chances of success in the Senate, however, are much slimmer.