Republican senators Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Josh Hawley of Missouri have both refused to discuss calls to ban AR-15s in the wake of the February killing of six people at a Christian school in Tennesee. The gunman used two AR-style weapons and a handgun in the attack. Hagerty told CNN: “I’m certain politics will wave into everything. But right now I’m not focused on the politics of the situation. I’m focused on the victims.” Hawley said that the shooting appeared to be a hate crime and that he had called on the FBI and the DHS to investigate.
Whilst Biden campaigned on a promise of gun law reform and an assault weapon ban, controversially defining an assault weapon as “a semi-automatic firearm that can shoot more than 10 rounds of ammunition without reloading,” neither he nor his administration have given any details or timescale for such a policy. Referring to this during a recent interview, the President commented: “I’m the only one that ever got [gun-control legislation] done nationally, it got completed. So the question is how much we can get done without the Congress.” He went on to say that the King Soopers shooting in Colorado last week had only “strengthened [his] resolve to get this done.” Biden is expected to nominate gun control advocate and former ATF agent David Chipman as head of the agency. Although gun sales have been consistently high throughout the pandemic, there are recent indications that demand may be beginning to fall with Smith & Wesson citing a -30.5% decline in net orders.
A poll conducted by Morning Consult/Politico in the wake of the Colorado shooting indicated that 61% of respondents supported a nationwide ban on assault weapons whilst 55% backed the closing of the gun show loophole. It also suggested 42% of Republicans believed gun control laws should be stricter, alongside 19% of Democrats.
The Colorado shooting was followed the next day by another incident in Bryan, Texas in which one person was killed and four injured. Policymaking on gun control has become a more pressing issue for the administration with a number of mass shootings in recent weeks. Biden has urged Congress to introduce legislation to ban assault weapons, saying “this should not be a partisan issue.” However, the US has a significant number of gun owners – more than twice the share of any other nation – according to a world population review in 2021. Moreover, gun ownership is widely associated with lifestyles, social and economic groups, making it a challenging issue to tackle.