Today marks the four years since an antisemitic shooter entered Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue armed with an AR-15 and three handguns and shot and killed 11 worshippers and injured six more. The gunman, an active member of a social media network for white nationalists and other extremists, reportedly entered the building yelling antisemitic hate speech. According to a statement by the Anti-Defamation League, the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue is the deadliest attack on a Jewish community in US history.
Easy access to firearms gives a single, hate-filled individual the means to shatter numerous lives and whole communities, as seen in the June 2015 shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, when a white supremacist opened fire, killing nine Black worshippers, the shooting in 2016 at Pulse nightclub, Orlando, Florida, when a gunman shot and killed 49 people and injured 53, most of whom identified as LGBTQ+ and Latinx, and most recently in May 2022, a shooter opened fire at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people and wounding three others. All 10 of those killed were Black, with the gunman specifically targeting a predominantly Black community.
Currently, there is no federal law prohibiting criminals convicted of violent or threatening misdemeanor hate crimes from buying or having guns. However, Pennsylvania lawmakers can take steps to prevent dangerous people from accessing guns by prohibiting the purchase and possession of assault weapons, such as the AR-15 used in the Tree of Life shooting. In the 12 years from 2009 to 2020, there were at least 30 mass shootings (16 percent of those with known weapon data) that involved the use of an assault weapon, resulting in 347 deaths and 719 injuries. Mass shootings that involved an assault weapon accounted for 25 percent of all mass shootings deaths and 76 percent of injuries. Lawmakers can also put in place stronger extreme risk laws to allow for quick intervention when a person is at serious risk of harming themselves or others with a firearm.