‘Why does this keep happening?’ Mass shootings in Boulder and Atlanta expose loopholes, weaknesses in gun laws

WASHINGTON – Back-to-back mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado underscore how loopholes and weak restrictions in gun laws enabled both suspects to get quick access to their weapons of choice in attacks that left 18 people dead.

The shootings this month have thrust the issue of gun violence back into the national spotlight – and with it, calls for changes in gun requirements.

While the shootings are unrelated and on different ends of the country, they both exposed issues within current gun laws. Namely, they show that nuances in laws – or no laws at all – allow certain guns to skirt state and federal statutes. 

The suspect who police say opened fire and killed eight at three spas in Georgia – an attack that shook the Asian-American community – bought a handgun just hours before the massacre. Georgia has no state law requiring a firearm waiting period, a requirement in 10 states and the District of Columbia that aims to save lives by delaying a potential killer from acting on impulse.

Six days after the Georgia assault, a man described by family members as mentally ill attacked a Colorado grocery store and killed 10, including a police officer. Police say in the days before the attack, the Colorado suspect purchased a Ruger AR-556 pistol that experts say largely mirrors a short-barrel rifle.

Federal law allows the Ruger to be categorized as a pistol, granting the suspect easy access to the weapon without the extensive restrictions placed on short-barrel rifles. 

“Why does this keep happening? And why aren’t we doing anything to stop it?” Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat who represents Parkland, Fla. that saw its own mass shooting at a high school in 2018. “We have both a gun violence epidemic in our country. And we have, sadly, a routine that we follow after these mass shootings, where there is intense focus that that lasts until people move on to the next issue.”

Loosened gun laws pass in Georgia amid push for waiting periods 

Michael Webb, the ex-husband of Xiaojie Tan 谭小洁 — one of the victims of the Georgia spa shootings, told those at her funeral on Friday that their family wants their daughter to move to China due to the gun violence and ongoing attacks targeting Asian-Americans in the U.S. 

“They think it’s just not safe here anymore and who could blame them,” Webb said. “Do we really have to quarantine ourselves to avoid being gunned down in the grocery store, our schools, our businesses, our places of worship? Must our flags always fly at half-mast? We as a country should be ashamed.”

Police say the suspect in the Atlanta-area attacks was found with a 9mm firearm. He legally purchased a weapon the day of the attacks from Big Woods Goods, a sporting good story in Cherokee County where police say the first spa he targeted is located. Matt Kilgo, the shop’s attorney, said his clients are “fully cooperating” with police. “Everything they have will be turned over,” Kilgo said.

If Georgia had required him to wait before getting a gun, lawmakers and advocates say, he might not have acted on his impulse to kill.

“It’s really quick. You walk in, fill out the paperwork, get your background check and walk out with a gun,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “If you’re in a state of crisis, personal crisis, you can do a lot of harm fairly quickly.”

Atlanta spa shootings: Suspect ‘frequented’ spas, bought gun day of shooting; victims range from mom of 2 to Army veteran

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