At the end of May, a spate of high-profile mass shootings brought the urgent conversation around gun control in the U.S. back into the national spotlight. A racist massacre in a grocery store in Buffalo saw 10 Black people killed and three others injured by a white supremacist on May 14. Ten days later, a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, became the third deadliest school shooting after Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook, with 19 students and two teachers killed. In the wake of these devastating events, politicians on both sides of the aisle have made efforts—however fraught—to enact policies addressing the epidemic of gun violence that continues to plague America.
The first bipartisan agreement on gun safety in years is currently being deliberated in the back rooms of Capitol Hill, with 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats in the Senate proposing new legislation that would see enhanced background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21 and those with a history of domestic abuse being prohibited from purchasing firearms. There would also be a provision for so-called red-flag laws allowing law enforcement to confiscate weapons from potentially dangerous individuals and additional funding provided to support mental health and safety initiatives at schools. But while it marks a rare moment of cooperation between the two parties, many expect it to hit an impasse as soon as it reaches the House floor.
Still, to focus too much on change at a governmental level is to miss half the story. Across America, nonprofits and community projects have been fighting for decades for gun-violence prevention to be taken seriously—and by taking matters into their own hands, they have led the charge on the kinds of grassroots-level initiatives changing the cultural attitudes around guns.
Many activists cite the historical debates about drunk driving, smoking, and seat belts as examples of how, over the course of just a generation or two, a social stigma can drive concrete legislative change. Others cite the precedents set by the Civil Rights and LGBTQ+ rights movements over the decades as proof that the power of protest and unrelenting pressure can eventually deliver results, however long they might take. But all are united in their belief that the only way to foster real change around gun violence in America is by keeping the momentum going, even when mass shootings aren’t making headline news.