Police officers stand outside an entrance to the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School after a shooting that left three people dead in St. Louis, Missouri on October 24, 2022.

Police officers stand outside an entrance to the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School after a shooting that left three people dead in St. Louis, Missouri on October 24, 2022. (Photo: Tim Vizer/AFP via Getty Images)

'We Don't Have to Live This Way': St. Louis School Gunman Armed With AR-15, 600+ Rounds

"Vote for lawmakers who will stand up to the gun lobby," one parent urged. "Our kids' lives depend on it."

Opponents of gun violence on Tuesday urged Americans to vote for Democratic candidates who support commonsense safety measures after law enforcement officials said that the 19-year-old gunman who killed a teacher and a 15-year-old student at a St. Louis high school was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and more than 600 rounds of ammunition.

"Republicans will tell you the solution is some more guns. On November 8, you need to tell them they're full of shit."

Orlando Harris entered Central Visual and Performing Arts High School on Monday and opened fire, killing sophomore Alexandria Bell and 61-year-old physical education teacher Jean Kuczka and wounding seven students. Police officers killed Harris, who graduated from the school last year, in an exchange of gunfire.

"This could have been much worse," St. Louis Police Commissioner Michael Sack said during a Tuesday news conference, noting that Harris was armed with almost a dozen 30-round high-capacity magazines.

Mom, teacher, and Democratic Minnesota House of Representatives candidate Erin Preese pointed out on social media that metal detectors, locks, and armed guards--the purported solutions routinely offered up by GOP lawmakers--failed to stop "yet another school shooting."

"We don't have to live this way," wrote Preese. "Vote for lawmakers who will stand up to the gun lobby. Our kids' lives depend on it."

Preese also shared a message from Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, which is part of Everytown. Both groups advocate for enacting popular policies to help end the epidemic of gun violence plaguing communities across the United States.

"Republicans will tell you the solution is some more guns," Watts tweeted. "On November 8, you need to tell them they're full of shit," she added, referring to the pivotal midterm elections that will determine control of Congress in two weeks.

During Tuesday's press conference, Sack read a handwritten note in which Harris "lamented that he had no friends, no family, no girlfriend, and a life of isolation," The Associated Pressreported. "In the note, he called it the 'perfect storm for a mass shooter.'"

The news outlet added that Sack "urged people to come forward when someone who appears to suffer from mental illness or distress begins 'speaking about purchasing firearms or causing harm to others.'"

While the U.S. is a highly atomized society, people in other countries also struggle with social isolation and depression but rarely carry out mass shootings. What sets the U.S. apart, experts have long argued, is that it is a nation awash in weapons designed to kill people quickly.

There are more guns than people in the U.S., and due to National Rifle Association-bankrolled Republicans' opposition to meaningful gun safety laws, it remains relatively easy for people to purchase firearms in many states.

In a Tuesday opinion piece, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger wrote: "It's not okay that we know what the problem is--too many guns. And yet Republicans in Congress and the Missouri Legislature regularly stop any meaningful action to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill or, in the case of assault rifles, banning them altogether."

"It's not okay that after every school shooting--Columbine, Newtown, Uvalde, St. Louis--we write the same narrative, with similar fact patterns, and nothing is ever done," wrote Messenger.

He continued:

After Uvalde, there was the slightest bit of progress, with Congress passing and President Joe Biden signing a gun safety bill that expanded background checks on 18- to-21-year-olds. It also added incentives for states to pass red flag laws and increased federal gun protections for domestic violence victims.

It was a step in the right direction. But here in Missouri, we have a Legislature that passed a law that seeks to exempt the state from federal gun regulations. [Democratic St. Louis Mayor Tishaura] Jones, who grieved with gun violence victims on Monday, filed a lawsuit to overturn that state gun nullification bill. The lawsuit is pending.

It's not okay that a city full of children who experience gun violence on a regular basis has to turn to the courts to stop lawmakers from passing laws that actually increase the possibility of gun violence in that city.

That's been the reality in Missouri since the 2007 repeal of a law requiring permits to purchase a handgun. Since then, legislators have regularly weakened gun safety laws. The result has been an increase in gun violence, leading to an additional 50-plus deaths a year in the state, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

As the AP reported, "Monday's school shooting was the 40th this year resulting in injuries or death, according to a tally by Education Week--the most in any year since it began tracking shootings in 2018."

According to tracking by Everytown, however, "there have been more than 140 shootings on school grounds so far in 2022--each one preventable."

This year's deadly attacks include the May massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were slaughtered by an 18-year-old man wielding an AR-15. Monday's shooting in St. Louis happened on the same day a Michigan teenager pleaded guilty to terrorism and first-degree murder charges stemming from a school shooting that killed four students in November 2021.

Studies have shown that gun regulations with high levels of public support, including bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, help reduce the number and severity of fatal mass shootings.

"Going to school shouldn't be a life or death experience," tweeted Students Demand Action. Their counterparts at Moms Demand Action, meanwhile, insisted that the nation can do a better job of protecting children from gun violence and urged voters to "elect leaders who will put their safety first."

Guns recently became the leading cause of death among children and teens in the U.S.

"No other high-income country lets children be traumatized, wounded, and killed with guns over and over again," Everytown noted Monday. "Our gun violence crisis is preventable, but it will take all of us to end it."

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