In the wake of the ongoing gun massacres that have become weekly – if not daily – in the United States, everybody has an opinion about what should be done to stop the bleeding.
This week, a local sports hero finally gave his.
During a June 14 Cincinnati Bengals press conference, quarterback Joe Burrow told reporters that he was in favor of stricter gun-control laws and background checks, possibly even "outlawing everything."
"You know, with everything that's going on, if you're not going to outlaw everything, you've got to at least make it harder to get those crazy guns that everybody's using," Burrow said. "I don't think you should be able to just walk in there and buy one; you've got to be able to go through a rigorous process to be able to buy something like that, I think."
Burrow did not specifically semiautomatic weapons, but military-style assault rifles frequently have been used in mass shootings, including in the recent elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, the elementary school shooting in Sandy Hook and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida.
The Uvalde shooter bought his AR-15-style rifle – plus multiple magazines of ammunition – shortly after his 18th birthday. Currently, 18-year-olds can legally purchase “long guns” like rifles, while they must wait until age 21 to buy handguns. But many rules go out the window when it comes to purchases at gun shows or from family.
The North Carolina Justice Center reports that assault rifles are much more violent than the hunting rifles typically shown on television and in movies. A shooter using one would hold their finger down to fire each round of ammo – and magazines typically hold dozens of rounds – rather than just shooting individual bullets like many conventional rifles. The effects on a human target are immediate.
"Bullets from weapons such as handguns typically pierce straight through a target, medical experts say. By comparison, weapons such as the AR-15s used in many mass shootings, can liquefy organs because of their much higher projectile speeds," NPR recently reported.
In 1994, Congress had – through bipartisan support – passed a federal assault weapons ban outlawing AR-15s. While the ban was in place, a research team found that numbers for both mass shooting deaths and mass shootings themselves fell. But after the ban expired in 2004, companies manufactured more of the weapons and other gun laws lapsed. The research team found that between 2004 and 2017, mass shooting deaths went up by about 25%.
“Gun murders, in particular, have climbed sharply in recent years,” a recent Pew Research Center national report says. “The 19,384 gun murders that took place in 2020 were the most since at least 1968, exceeding the previous peak of 18,253 recorded by the CDC in 1993. The 2020 total represented a 34% increase from the year before, a 49% increase over five years and a 75% increase over 10 years.”
In Ohio, nearly 1,800 residents died via firearms in 2021 – almost as many as in 2020, the state's reigning record year.
Research by the New York Times shows that a number of mass shootings could have been prevented or caused fewer deaths and injuries had better laws and background checks been in place in states and federally. And more than half of Americans favor gun restrictions, Pew reports.
On the federal level, Democrats and Republican Senators have been discussing how to control access to weapons – or at least to better understand who is buying them – but Republicans have indicated they’re not interested in raising the age at which someone can buy a firearm. A bi-partisan group of legislators has developed the initial framework for a bill that eventually may close some questionable gun-purchase practices, but it is not as sweeping as U.S. President Joe Biden or other Democrats have advocated.
"Hopefully the people who get paid to make those decisions figure that out. My job is to play football, but hopefully the politicians can figure that one out," Burrow said.