A wise man once advised me never to complain about a problem unless I was prepared to offer a solution, and, where possible, I’ve always tried to adhere to that advice in my newspaper columns. For example, I’ve criticized long-serving politicians by advocating for term limits, and I’ve criticized the practice of jailing people for smoking dope by advocating for the legalization of drugs. I’ve also proposed various solutions for solving our nation’s problem with gun violence, but I’ve since come to realize that neither my solutions nor those of anyone else are likely to work, so long as we live in such a politically divided nation. Here, in no particular order, are some of the initiatives that have been proposed to combat gun violence:
Ban the Sale of Assault-Style Rifles
We tried this back in 1994, but six years later, the law was repealed as soon as Republican George W. Bush took office. In the intervening two decades, assault rifle sales have enjoyed unchecked growth. Biden and his majority might re-institute a ban, but unless such a provision is formed into a Constitutional Amendment, then it’s subject to another repeal whenever Republicans regain control of the government. Also, we now know that assault-style pistols can be just as deadly, as we discovered recently after the Boulder massacre. Thus, any new legislation must be careful to use the word “weapon” rather than just “rifle.” Finally, even if we suddenly made it illegal to purchase all guns, it won’t solve our overall problem, because currently there are more guns in circulation than there are people, so anyone who wants to commit murder can easily get his hands on a weapon.
Regulate the Sale of Ammo
This hasn’t worked with gun sales, so why would it work with ammo? Also, most gun owners already have a stockpile of ammunition, and those who don’t, can beg, borrow, steal, or import what they need.
Ban the Manufacture of Large Ammo Clips
This would be a good idea except for two things. First, these mega mags are already plentiful, and second, any sicko determined to kill innocent people can do so with a semi-automatic handgun and several standard-size clips.
If police went door to door to confiscate all weapons, it would violate the Second Amendment and start an all-out civil war. This is the ultimate fear of Q-Anon nuts, but it’s also a concern for law-abiding citizens who would get swept up in escalated gun violence.
Arm Every Citizen
There is a long-standing theory among many conservatives that if everyone were packing a gun, then one or more of us would be able to stop a demented shooter before he can massacre a lot of people. There is, however, no data to show that ordinary citizens would know how to react quickly enough to prevent a massacre, nor that they wouldn’t end up shooting an innocent person in the process.
Institute a Buy-Back Campaign
No matter how many cities seek to buy back guns from residents, those campaigns only collect a tiny fraction of guns already in existence. Besides, the kind of men who shot up Atlanta and Boulder would have never participated in such an initiative.
Install Metal Detectors
I have long been a proponent of requiring metal detectors in all schools, shopping malls, and other large public venues, and installing sophisticated remote monitoring and door lock devices. I still believe this is logistically viable, but unless subsidized by the government, these upgrades would be cost-prohibitive for most businesses, churches, and schools.
Require Extended Waiting Periods
There’s nothing wrong with enacting a mandatory 90-day waiting period for the purchase of a gun. But while such a delay could prevent some spur-of-the-moment murders, it would only prolong a planned massacre. A longer waiting period would, however, allow for more extensive background checks.
Enact Mandatory Background Checks
Most localities have a system in place for checking the background of someone who wants to purchase a gun. The problem is that unless the purchaser has been in jail or hospitalized for mental illness, a background check is useless. Some Sheriffs have suggested that such checks should include a shared national database that red flags anyone who has been visited by police or social workers on multiple occasions but never arrested or committed.
Hire More School Counselors
The one thing on which everyone agrees is that mass shooters are mentally ill. The problem is that we never seem to know about their illness until AFTER a massacre. Having a social worker or psychologist in every school would give us a fighting chance to detect early-warning signs of deviant behavior and violent tendencies. It’s an investment we should make, but it’s not a quick fix.
The reason why these and other measures won’t succeed right now is because our political leaders are working at cross-purposes. While Biden is considering taking executive action to ban certain weapons, State legislatures are making it easier to own and carry a gun. For example, 15 States now allow concealed carry without a permit, and nine other States are about to follow suit. And 12 States are now debating a law that would prohibit local police from enforcing any new federal gun control laws. Meanwhile, the body count keeps rising from mass shootings.
No one is safe anymore, and the conservative leaders who should be concerned about that seem to fear their political base more than they do the shooters.