On Politics: Congress actually doing something on gun violence (opinion)
As winter morphs into spring we see more and more marches against gun violence.
USA Today just published a piece in which survivors of massacres at Virginia Tech, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas and Parkland were interviewed and all agreed that each subsequent tragedy strengthened their resolve to oppose such violence and increased their frustration with lawmakers who seemingly are doing nothing.
They cry: Do something … anything. Yet when the occasional brave legislator says, “tell me a plan that will work and I will introduce it,” there is stony silence. A few radicals want to outlaw all firearms but it doesn’t take a lot of brain cells to realize that, like all other “bans,” such a measure would only result in a black market with skyrocketing prices and illegal profits that attract organized crime. Just look at Australia.
Corporate America was right there with a quick “me too.” Airlines canceled group pricing deals with the National Rifle Association; sporting goods stores unilaterally forbade sales to customers under 21 and pomposity seemed to reign as Citigroup banks recently threatened their banking clients that refused to abide by the megabank’s “policies” on firearm sales.
“Do something … anything” is a natural reaction borne of grief, shock and frustration, but it’s not particularly helpful in conjuring up measures to stem gun violence.
First question: Is it the gun’s fault or the shooter’s? Obviously the latter.
Second question: What characteristic do these shooters have in common?
CNN has researched and reported on the worst mass shootings in the United States. Of 34 such massacres in only seven cases was the shooter captured, tried and executed or sentenced. In the remainder shooters took their own lives, were killed by law enforcement (suicide by cop) and in one case confined to a mental institution. In four cases the shooters were jihadists but in the others it appears they suffered from a temporary or permanent mental defect, hence the high proportion of suicides.
What country has liberal gun ownership laws and does a good job of preventing gun violence? Switzerland. Swiss Army reservists and militia are required to keep assault rifles in their home in case called up. The Swiss Federal Office of Police oversees sale and licensing of firearms. Swiss laws encourage mental health professionals to report anyone they suspect of being dangerous and this information goes into a data base which is checked when firearms are sold. The last mass shooting in Switzerland was in 2001.
It would not be easy to persuade conservatives to support licensing of firearms, but the mental health issue is drawing bipartisan support both at the state and federal levels. In 1996 Congress passed a law preventing the Centers for Disease Control from using taxpayer funds to “advocate or promote gun control” which stifled research on the subject.
The bipartisan spending bill just passed removed that ban. It also allocated funds to beef up the National Instant Criminal Background Check System including funding incentives for states to improve their reporting.
FactCheck.org recently reported that in 2015 the American Psychological Association produced a scientific review of materials concluding that media violence is a “risk factor” related to criminal aggressive behavior, perhaps a good starting place for research.
Finally Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have introduced bipartisan federal legislation creating incentives for states to pass “red flag” legislation allowing law enforcement to pursue court orders to strip guns from dangerous people.
Despite profanity-laced calls to congressmen, periodic walk outs and a hue and cry for “action now!” it looks like Congress is making real progress in identifying and counteracting the root cause of this homicidal insanity.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.