Our local Kansas City Star did a fantastic thing yesterday. They printed an op/ed piece from their editorial board that is clear, simple and very true on how and why we must reduce the numbers of innocent Americans shot and killed in our nation.
The United States faces an unprecedented crisis of gun violence, a moral and health disaster that threatens every American.
The bloodshed must be stopped. The courageous students in Florida, who just helped bury their classmates and teachers, unmistakably call us all to action.
The voices in Las Vegas, Orlando, San Bernardino, Charleston, Sutherland Springs, Ft. Hood, Columbine, Newtown and other communities bear witness to the slaughter as well.
We start with two guiding principles:
▪ The claim that any one approach “won’t work” and therefore should not be tried, is a dangerous nonstarter.
No law works in every instance. Laws deter behavior and punish aberrance, but they cannot stop every anti-social act. That doesn’t mean we give up on laws.
Airport security rules failed on Sept. 11, 2001. No one proposed ending those rules because they “didn’t work.” Instead, Americans studied the failure, learned from it and improved the rules where necessary.
A similar approach can work with gun violence.
▪ Several solutions are better than one. While it’s tempting to simply propose universal weapon confiscation — which would sharply reduce the killings — it is not practically or politically possible.
Instead, a series of reforms, linked to a common objective, has the best chance of reducing gun violence.
Background checks and gun purchases
Polls show the vast majority of Americans supports expanded background checks before any weapon is purchased. That means a federal criminal and mental health background check should be required for guns bought privately and at gun shows.
A gun buyer should be required to obtain a federal clearance document, reflecting a background check, which would then be presented before any weapons transaction. Failure to do so would result in criminal liability for the buyer and the seller.
Law enforcement officials must have the resources to make sure background check information is accurate and easily shared.
Mental health screening
Funding for mental health screening and treatment must be increased. Any police officer will tell you mental illness is his or her biggest challenge, and early intervention can prevent a lifetime of suffering.
But Americans must also link mental health screening with preventing weapons possession. It does no good to identify mental illness without tools to take weapons away from those who threaten violence.
Anyone convicted of domestic violence should not have a gun, period. Stronger protective orders preventing gun possession are an option, and those involuntarily hospitalized for mental illness should not have guns.
We must be careful because the vast majority of the mentally ill aren’t violent. Rules must be carefully drawn to prevent indiscriminate detention and confiscation of property.
Security in public spaces
Schools must be made more secure, but that is just a start. Security measures must now be re-evaluated for all public places.
It’s absurd to claim teachers or other employees in public spaces should arm themselves. They aren’t the police. And it’s beyond horrific to expect teachers or any other civilian to put themselves between a bullet and a victim.
Teachers have shown unfathomable courage in mass shooting events. But firing a weapon or becoming a human shield should not be a job requirement.
The First Amendment protects artists who use violence in movies, books, music, video games and the like. Yet some images and words undoubtedly impact some people, including some prone to violent acts.
The industry must step forward on its own to curtail the use of such images.
The nation should ban the manufacture, possession or sale of certain firearms, including semi-automatic assault weapons, that are used in mass shootings. At absolute minimum, Congress must raise the age for purchasing such guns.
Bump stocks should be illegal. High taxes on magazines and bullets are another worthwhile approach. A national waiting period for gun purchases makes sense and would pass constitutional muster.
The Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but it is not absolute — most fully-automatic weapons are banned for civilians, for example. Other weapons of mass murder should be in the same category.
Gun makers should be subject to product liability lawsuits as well.
Reasonable Americans can discuss the mix of laws and regulations needed to address the gun crisis. But make no mistake: Inaction is not acceptable. Stalling for time won’t work anymore.
Voters will judge their representatives on this issue, and elected officials who fail to act will be complicit in the carnage.
On Thursday, National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre — who was paid more than $5 million in 2015, according to records — railed against unnamed “elites” for politicizing gun violence.
You’re wrong, Wayne. Ordinary moms and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and classmates are demanding change.
They’re tired of attending church, or school, or a movie or concert fearing for their lives. They’re tired of sending their kids to school wondering if they’ll come home.
They’re tired of politicians more concerned with campaign donations than doing what’s right. They’re tired of burying the dead.
They are not elites. They are everyday Americans. They want to end the slaughter. They will be heard. We join our voice with theirs. What's important to stress is that no one, no one is calling for an end to the Second Amendment, first, and that no one is coming after all the guns, all the weapons in the nation. The alarmists on the other side of this opinion assume and go to that nearly every time. It's untrue and wrong. These simple, intelligent, reasonable measures pointed out here above would go a long, long way to saving innocent American lives in our nation, going forward.
It's not too much to ask.