Reframe gun debate to be about people
As much as a majority of Americans support more sensible laws governing guns, expect the political realities governing Washington to easily squelch any serious discussions about making sensible changes.
No matter the body count (and injury count) last week in Las Vegas. No matter how many will die in the next U.S. mass shooting, which statistically is expected to happen today. No matter how long this madness keeps up, don’t expect federal laws to help stem it anytime soon.
If anything, under this Republican-controlled government, expect laws to become more gun-friendly. Think broader permit-to-carry powers, plus remember President Trump already overturned a rule barring gun ownership for some who have been deemed mentally impaired.
To be clear, new laws alone cannot curb America’s epidemic of mass shootings. And by no means should they overwhelm the Second Amendment. However, as the bodies pile up, it’s crystal clear to common-sense Americans that they are but one part of a solution America must craft soon:
How can we identify people who pose risks and then make it difficult for them to possess weapons capable of firing massive amounts of ammunition in seconds?
That’s why this board — along with most Americans — sees a good starting point being the long-proposed plan to require background checks for all gun purchases online and at gun shows. It’s not the perfect answer alone. But it is a needed addition to existing laws.
Similarly, with an estimated 300-million-plus guns in the U.S. now — none of which were confiscated by a certain former president in the past eight years — federal lawmakers need to ramp up resources for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
This agency essentially oversees firearms dealings and ownership, yet news reports since 2010 have noted it is woefully lacking resources.
The Detroit Free Press reported in 2016 the ATF has just 811 agents assigned to investigate industry operations, a number that has not changed much in the past 15 years even though there are 139,000 licensed gun dealers. And as The Washington Post has noted, the result is some gun shops can go eight years without an ATF review.
Can you imagine the outrage lawmakers would show if restaurants or airplanes were reviewed only once every eight years?
As for new laws, initial reports about the Las Vegas massacre already have revived debates on banning automatic rifles and accessories that can turn semi-automatic weapons into automatics. It is encouraging some Republican leaders (and powerful special interests) are willing to examine such accessories.
This board stated in 2015 that’s worth a discussion, given rapid gunfire is common to so many mass shootings. Congress from 1994 to 2004 banned certain semi-automatic assault weapons and magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Did it help? Hard to say, but back then America was not averaging one mass shooting a day, either.
Speaking of bans, the U.S. Supreme Court late in 2015 did let stand a Chicago suburb’s ban on semi-automatic assault weapons. The justification was the community simply took reasonable steps to protect all residents while still allowing individuals to own guns, whether for protection or recreation.
With federal lawmakers so paralyzed on this issue, perhaps more local control needs to be another factor in any solution.
Remember, though, the priority of any legislative package is to identify people who pose risks, not inanimate objects.
Maybe if federal lawmakers could reframe this issue in that context, they could actually do something to curb an epidemic their lack of action has only made worse the past decade.
— St. Cloud Times