Illinois last week became the ninth state to enact a ban on such weapons, which have been used in many devastating mass shootings. In recent years, the U.S. has seen a flurry of activity at the state level to combat gun violence, which the American Public Health Associations has classified as an epidemic. According to the Gun Violence Archive, guns claimed the lives of more than 44,000 Americans in 2022, including 24,000 who died by suicide. Gun safety groups say passing laws like the Illinois assault weapons ban will become even more crucial in the coming months to address this issue: with Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives, the prospects for enacting additional federal gun legislation in the near future appear bleak, reports The Guardian. Last June, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which expanded background checks for the youngest gun buyers and provided funding for mental health and violence intervention programs, among other initiatives. It was the first time in nearly 30 years that Congress approved a major gun safety bill.
Despite gun safety advocates’ demands for more action at the federal level, including an assault weapons ban, such reform will be difficult to achieve. Even if Senate Democrats pass additional gun regulations, the newly elected House speaker, Republican Kevin McCarthy, will be able to block those bills from receiving a vote in the lower chamber. Still, “I do believe that there’s still opportunity regardless of the fact that obviously the House is under Republican control now,” said Zeenat Yahya of the gun safety group March For Our Lives. “We want to be able to make sure that gun violence prevention is still at the forefront of a conversation, and we’re playing an active role at the federal level.” Yahya said reform at the state level has become “even more important with the Republican control of the House”. In the past year, states have already enacted a number of new gun laws championed by groups like March For Our Lives. The group Everytown for Gun Safety says that at least 51 new laws aimed at reducing gun violence were passed in 2022, while dozens of bills backed by the gun lobby were defeated. New York passed a slate of gun proposals after the massacre at a supermarket in Buffalo, where a white supremacist fatally shot 10 Black shoppers and workers last May. The state raised the age requirement to purchase a long gun from 18 to 21, established a code of conduct for gun dealers and closed a legal loophole regarding the ownership of high-capacity magazines.