On Thursday, the fifth anniversary of the 2018 Sante Fe High School shooting that left 10 people dead and 13 others wounded, President Joe Biden issued a statement urging Congress to act on a list of gun safety proposals. Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock and Congresswoman Lucy McBath echoed his calls at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol.
“If we can’t keep our own people alive, save our own babies, if we can’t guarantee parents that when you drop your kids off, they’ll be OK, then what are we doing in this building?” Warnock said. “And so there’s no action that’s taking place in light of these recent tragedies, and what’s more is that there’s virtually no conversation happening in the Congress, even as the nation is focused on these issues.”
Two high-profile mass shootings rocked Georgia earlier this month after a gunman killed one woman and injured four others at a Midtown Atlanta medical center May 3, and another suspected shooter in Moultrie killed three before turning the gun on himself the following day.
The event included survivors and family members of victims. Ashbey Beasley, who survived the July 4, 2022 shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, described how a fun summer morning with her six-year-old turned into a nightmare scene as dozens were struck by bullets.
“Every day we expect kids to move past experiences with gun violence,” she said. “We expect them to go back to schools that have been put through lockdown. We expect them to go back to learning in classrooms where they have piled up desks to barricade doors. We expect kids to go on with life after surviving mass shootings, after seeing their friends and teachers murdered. We expect them to go back to being kids after getting shot. We, the adults, are failing our children.”
McBath, whose son was murdered in 2012 in what came to be known as the loud music case, spoke with survivors and family members of victims about her grief. She referenced the one-year anniversaries of two major shootings in 2022 – one at a Buffalo, New York grocery store on May 14, and one in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas on May 24.
“For the first time in a decade, I didn’t cry on Mother’s Day,” she said. “It’s been ten years now, and for the first time, I didn’t cry. However, I know that your grief feels immense, but you carry on the legacy of your loved ones with the work that you’re doing every single day. You carry them in your heart and your spirit as you turn your pain into progress.”
McBath also had strong words for colleagues who oppose new gun laws.
“Thoughts and prayers are not stopping this carnage, and if that’s all that my colleagues have to offer to these survivors that we have every single day, I suggest that you save your strength,” she said. “Because faith without works is dead. Prayer without action is hollow. We must continue to follow a path to action. We have the tools to dam this river of despair. It’s common sense solutions that save lives. It’s background checks. It’s red flag laws. It’s banning assault weapons.”
Biden’s proposed list of regulations includes safe storage requirements, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, universal background checks and legal liability for gun manufacturers.
Sweeping changes are likely to be a tough sell with Republicans controlling the U.S. House, but Warnock said he is optimistic, pointing to a Fox News poll suggesting widespread support for gun safety measures and a bipartisan package of modest gun regulations signed by Biden after the Uvalde shooting.
“There’s no reason why we can’t do it again, so I’m having those conversations right now with any of my colleagues, all of them, and we have work to do, but the beginning of that work is to actually have an honest conversation, which I can tell you was not happening a few weeks ago,” he said.
State Democrats in Georgia have also called for a special Legislative session to consider gun regulations.