From McDonald's to iPhones, jeans and the latest Hollywood blockbusters, America's soft power across Asia remains undiminished. But the country's tragic and endemic gun violence is draining its international prestige. No other nation has more civilians owning guns, not even civil war-racked Yemen which is in the second place. And few other developed nations make headlines, routinely, with such gun-related violence as the May 24 incident where an 18-year-old gunned down 19 children and two teachers with an assault rifle at a Texas elementary school. Another teen killed 10 people, with a similar weapon, in a store in New York state just days earlier. More shootings have occurred since those two attacks, the latest in an Alabama church on June 17, which left three dead. So far this year, gun violence has taken more than 19,300 lives.
In one encouraging sign last week, a bipartisan group of senators agreed on what they called a "common sense proposal" that could set the stage for legislation to curb future shootings. It includes funds for states to enact "red flag" laws to take away guns from people who already own them but might pose a threat to themselves or others, expanded background checks for gun purchases for buyers between the ages of 18 and 21, and provisioning for better school security. While those reforms are welcome, the proposal is still not far-reaching enough. Most glaringly, there is no call for an outright ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines or for even raising the age at which they can be purchased. President Joe Biden, who was the co-author of a law banning assault weapons that expired in 2004, has demanded that such measures be reinstated.