As California grapples with back-to-back deadly mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, the U.S. is once again trying to come up with a solution on how to prevent these acts of violence.
The group 97Percent works to include gun owners in the conversation around gun control.
Their name was inspired by a 2018 Quinnipiac University poll, which found that 97% of respondents approve of universal background checks.
Mathew Littman, 97Percent’s executive director, joined “Inside the Issues” host Alex Cohen to talk about the group's work.
“Our focus is bringing everybody together around these views,” said Littman. “I think you would agree that thoughts and prayers at this point or not… [are] not enough. So what are we going to do that’s changing things? Whatever we’ve been doing so far as a country has not worked.”
Littman last joined “Inside the Issues” in June shortly after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where 21 people were killed.
Littman said there has been progress made after Uvalde. Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, aimed at toughening background checks, and helps states with red flag laws. However, he also pointed to setbacks, such as the Supreme Court ruling, that eased restrictions on carrying guns in public.
“In California, we have a lot of gun safety laws,” said Littman. “A lot of those laws are not going to last because of what happened at the Supreme Court.”
According to the CDC, more than 45,000 people in the United States died from gun violence in 2020.
Litman pointed to a gun safety study led by Dr. Michael Siegel at Tufts University School of Medicine in partnership with 97Percent. The goal was to use in-depth surveys to find a common ground with gun owners and non-gun owners on firearm laws.
“He found that, for example, if you do state background checks that are more extensive than federal, and somebody has to get a permit in a state, that's a better background check, more likely.”
The group 97Percent released a Policy Roadmap that includes four gun safety policies. Research shows they could reduce gun-related homicides by up to 28% and suicide rates by more than 6%.
The policies included in the roadmap are “closing the violent misdemeanor loophole, creating a state-level permit system, implementing a revamped universal background check system, and creating a red flag law with due process protections.”
Littman recently appeared on the BBC to discuss the mass shootings in California. When asked by Cohen how the rest of the world sees the United States on this issue, Littman said the question they have is why there are no universal background checks.
“As an American, it makes no sense,” he said. “There are things that we could do that the vast majority of people in this country want to do that will reduce deaths. It won't go from 45,000 to zero, but these are lives and any lives that we could save — that's worthwhile.”
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