This July 4th, our nation needs freedom from unfettered gun violence

According to a new Pew Research Center poll, some two-thirds of Americans expect gun violence to get worse over the next five years. Is that surprising, when our nation has experienced over 300 mass shootings already this year?

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A year after its sweeping gun rights ruling, the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether judges are going too far in striking down restrictions on firearms. The justices said Friday they will hear the Biden administration’s appeal of one such ruling that struck down as unconstitutional a federal law meant to keep guns away from people who have domestic violence restraining orders against them.

A year after its sweeping gun rights ruling, the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether judges are going too far in striking down restrictions on firearms. The justices said Friday they will hear the Biden administration’s appeal of one such ruling that struck down as unconstitutional a federal law meant to keep guns away from people who have domestic violence restraining orders against them.

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Nelson Mandela told us, “Freedom would be meaningless without security in the home and in the streets.”

Yet on this Fourth of July, many Americans no longer feel secure in their homes or on the streets because of the proliferation of guns — many of them powerful weapons of war in civilian hands — and incessant shootings.

July 4th, a date set aside to honor the independence of our nation, has also become a time of bloodshed. An average of five mass shootings marred Independence Day over the past decade, according to an analysis of Gun Violence Archive data by researcher James Alan Fox of Northeastern University in Boston.

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Among those shootings was the one at last year’s Highland Park July 4th parade, when a gunman with a high-powered rifle killed seven people and wounded 48 others. If that wasn’t bad enough, gun violence was at historic highs leading into this year’s holiday.

Over this year’s Fourth of July weekend, as of early Monday, 36 people were shot in Chicago, five of them fatally, including a 15-year-old girl. That’s after 75 people were shot in the city and 13 died over this year’s Juneteenth weekend, and 61 people were shot in the city over the Memorial Day weekend.

Elsewhere across the country, two people died and 28 others were wounded in a Baltimore block party shooting on Sunday. Also on Sunday, seven people were shot and two others trying to flee were trampled at a Wichita, Kansas, nightclub. Two other mass shootings took place in New York and Tennessee.

According to a Pew Research Center poll released last week, many Americans — 62% — expect gun violence to get worse over the next five years.

And why shouldn’t they? Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s District of Columbia v. Heller ruling in 2008, which for the first time said Americans have the constitutional right to own a gun without any connection to a militia, laws to protect citizens and limit gun violence have fallen. Meanwhile, dangerous laws allowing everything from open carrying of assault weapons to removing all restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons have been proliferating.

Moreover, many of those who are most adamant about gun rights talk about taking up arms to attack the government or to fight against other Americans. The days when discussions of the right to bear arms were about the right to go hunting are long gone.

Since the Heller ruling — and the Supreme Court’s McDonald v. Chicago ruling two years later, which limited state and local gun laws — the risk of deaths and injuries from guns has been steadily increasing with the force of an epidemic. On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider during its next term a case involving whether the government may forbid people who are subject to domestic violence orders from having guns.

Meanwhile, each year some Fourth of July holiday celebrants shoot guns into the air with little regard to where the bullets will come down, creating a risk of injury and death. It’s another way that more guns can take away a community’s sense of freedom.

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There were 14.6 gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2021, which is the highest rate since the early 1990s and just below the historic peak of 16.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 1974, according to Pew Research. Already this year, more than 21,600 people have died because of gun-related injuries and there have been some 340 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Drape some red, white and blue bunting on those statistics.

Perhaps the next time someone draws an image of Uncle Sam, he should be wearing a bulletproof vest and a helmet. No other peer nation suffers from anywhere near the gun carnage the United States does. Americans do not have to accept the dangerous status quo.

Instead, as we the people wave Old Glory, we should all make a vow to make our nation one that enjoys Mandela’s definition of true freedom.

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