MORE than 100 Episcopalian bishops in the United States have thanked the US President, Joe Biden, for his “holy work” to curb gun violence.
The group, Bishops United Against Gun Violence, which advocates firearms restrictions, published an open letter to President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, thanking them for their call for Congress to enact background checks on all gun sales, and to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which hold many rounds of ammunition.
They wrote: “Thank you, too, for your pledge to take executive action when necessary to stop gun violence, and to establish a task force to focus on the connection between mass shootings, online harassment, extremism, and violence against women. We applaud these efforts and ask that you and your administration urge Congress to enact the kind of powerful legislation we need to save the lives of more than 37,000 Americans who now die each year from gun violence.
“We stand ready to assist your administration in advocating for and serving as champions for policies that can help end what we call the unholy trinity of poverty, racism and gun violence.”
President Biden’s administration said this week that “it looks forward” to working with Congress to strengthen the federal gun background-check system and to implement “common sense” steps to reduce gun violence, urging the House to pass two measures that would “close existing loopholes” in the system.
Two measures have been introduced to Congress: the Bipartisan Background Checks Act 2021, which would require a background check for every firearms sale, and the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, which would outlaw the sale of second-hand guns except through a licensed dealer.
President Biden called on Congress to take action on the third anniversary of the shooting that led to the deaths of 17 students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, in Florida (News, 23 February 2018).
In a statement this week, he said: “This administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call. We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer.
“We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change. The time to act is now.”
The National Rifle Association opposes any efforts towards gun-law reform. It and other groups guard fiercely the rights granted under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Federal law in the US sets minimum standards for firearm regulation. Gun sellers must carry out background checks on every buyer against an FBI database. Convicted felons, illegal immigrants, and people with serious mental-health problems are not meant to be allowed to buy firearms.
But individual states also have their own laws, and these differ on the kind of weapon that may be owned or carried in public.