2007, Virginia Tech., Blacksburg, VA = 32 dead; 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newton, CT = 27 dead; 2016, Orlando, FL = 49 dead; Las Vegas, NV = 58 dead, more than 500 injured.
According to The Wall Street Journal (Oct., 2015), The United States “leads the world in mass shootings.”
Survivors of mass shootings frequently suffer post-traumatic stress. Think of the 22,000 Las Vegas concert goers who were forced to run, take cover, and/or watch friends or relatives shot or killed. Imagine the nightmares suffered by the Sandy Hook kids.
Last week, I received an e-mail from a reader responding to my commentary (Why? When? What?) asking: “WHAT WOULD YOU DO? Please write 5 suggestions for new laws that you believe would stop this madness.”
To begin with, there is nothing that will, in the words of this reader, “stop this madness.”
Just as you can never make a plane, car, or boat completely safe, or keep individuals from using them in a malevolent manner, nonetheless – as government has taken steps to make all those vehicles safer through decades of regulation – government can successfully regulate who can own a gun, make it more difficult for individuals to misuse them and still preserve Second Amendment rights.
If I had the powers of the presidency, I would appoint a panel to study and put forth well-reasoned options for regulating guns for private ownership. (Let’s remember, the Second Amendment may give citizens “the right to keep and bear arms,” but the Supreme Court has determined that a citizen does not have the right “to keep and bear” a hand grenade, rocket-propelled grenade or other such weapons.)
Such a panel would be comprised of current (and perhaps former) law enforcement officials from DOJ, FBI, ATF, DEA, and the U.S. Marshall’s Office.
While I would defer to the experts’ proposals on this subject, that response lets me off the hook. The reader specifically asked me to put forth “5 suggestions for new laws.” Okay, here are 8.
Let’s begin with some common ground.
According to a Pew Research Poll (June 22), 89 percent of gun owners “favor preventing people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns.”
Suggestion 1: Ban individuals with a history of mental illness from owning a gun.
According to Pew, 77 percent of gun owners favor “requiring background checks for private sales and at gun shows.”
Suggestion 2: Require background checks for private sales and gun shows.
According to Pew, 82 percent of gun owners favor “barring gun purchases by people on no-fly or watch lists.”
Suggestion 3: Bar gun purchases by people on no-fly or watch lists.
According to Pew, 54 percent of gun owners favor “creating a federal government database to track all gun sales.”
Suggestion 4: Create a federal database on all gun sales.
Now for the tough stuff.
After it was discovered that the Las Vegas shooter had stacks of high-capacity magazines (any device that holds more than 10 rounds) in his hotel room, former Homeland Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, Fran Townsend strongly believes that high-capacity magazines should be banned.
Suggestion 5: Ban all magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Twenty-three weapons were found in the hotel room of the Las Vegas shooter. Twelve were equipped with so-called bump stocks, effectively turning them into machine guns.
Suggestion 6: Ban all bump stocks or any other device that would effectively turn a gun into a machine gun. Even the NRA favors the ATF to ban bump stocks.
According to Pew, almost 50 percent of gun owners (48 percent) favor “banning assault-style weapons.”
Suggestion 7: Ban assault-style weapons. According to a database by Mother Jones magazine, of the nine high-profile mass shootings since July 2016, including Las Vegas, assault-style rifles were used in eight.
Needless to say, all of these suggestions would have to be vetted through Congress, Department of Justice, ATF, and ultimately the Supreme Court but it’s a start.
Suggestion 8: Not a law but perhaps most important. Let’s try to dial back the rhetoric about rights, and focus more on our responsibilities to one another through reasoned and reasonable dialog.
In Confessions of a Sensible Gun Owner, (Oct. 8), Lily Raff McCaulou writes “A great many hunters and gun owners are like me. … We exercise our Second Amendment rights in a way that is palatable to most people… Hunters are accustomed to following nuanced gun laws…, so we understand that common-sense regulation doesn’t mean an end to bearing arms. …
“Last year I joined the board of a small nonprofit in Oregon called Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership. …
“Our group is trying to do important, mostly apolitical work — handing out free gun locks, training doctors to talk to patients about safe firearm storage, offering basic information about guns to the news media so they can report about the issue more accurately. …
“We do very little lobbying, though our board endorsed a proposal signed into law in Oregon this year to issue protection orders to keep guns temporarily out of the hands of people who, in a situation like sudden extreme distress, pose a clear threat to themselves or others. Suicides account for 60 percent of the nation’s more than 33,000 firearm deaths a year. Many suicides are impulsive acts, so even minor barriers — akin to putting guardrails on bridges, for example — can save lives.”
Monday: Harvey Weinstein