Every time a mass shooting happens we can depend on a few things. First, everyone will offer thoughts and prayers. Oddly those never seem to result in any action. Then, the left will come out and call for better laws and the political right will say that the country needs time to mourn.
Weíve had time many times over to mourn as a country, and a nationwide discussion about our gun violence epidemic does nothing to devalue the mourning of families who have lost loved ones to yet another mass shooting. We are becoming so desensitized that most mass shootings ó four or more people killed or injured ó donít even make the national news anymore.
Itís not too early to talk about gun violence, itís too late. Too late for the 59 families who lost a loved one and 527 folks who were wounded in Las Vegas. Too late for the 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook. The list goes on.
Republicans ostensibly believe in personal responsibility above all else. It seems absurd to me that conservatives consider access to firearms a right but access to health insurance merely a privilege. I believe that the majority of Americans, from both the left and the right, can agree on a few first steps on guns, and then a pause to gauge effectiveness.
First, we need a five-year recurring cycle of background checks and training. That may sound like a lot to those used to being able to purchase a gun and never have to think about training or background checks again, but itís similar to what the military requires. During my 12 years of service, one of my responsibilities in the Navy was to train sailors in the use of force, and both lethal and non-lethal weapons and tactics. Before anyone was even allowed to get into boot camp, let alone in a room with firearms, they had to pass a background check. After that, they still had to undergo hours of training before being allowed to shoot.
Each year, they had to fire the weapons on which they were qualified and sit through hours of training in tactical team movement, rules of engagement and measures ó all with the simple goal of keeping everyone safe. Every five years, the background check process began again. If itís good enough for the military (one might say ďa well-regulated militiaĒ) it should be good enough for Americans who tout the Second Amendment as divine.
Weíll also need a cap on the capacity of magazines. Now, that may sound scary or less fun to gun enthusiasts, but watch video from Las Vegas and note that the shooter fired continuously through each magazine before taking a significant amount of time to reload. Imagine how many people would still be alive today if he was only able to fire 10 rounds at a time rather than 30, 50, 100 or more. We also need to outright ban bump stocks and other technically legal modifications that allow semi-automatic weapons to be used as automatic weapons. This should be easy.
This issue cannot be solved state by state so it absolutely must come in the form of national legislation. California has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation but Nevada, where the shooting on Sunday occurred, has some of the most lax. The states share a border and there arenít exactly a ton of checkpoints.
This should not be a partisan issue. More than 90% of Americans say universal background checks are a good first step.In fact, 72% of NRA members agree.
Surely we cannot end all gun violence and surely there will be those that say these laws wonít work because criminals violate laws and theyíll just buy what they want on the black market. I challenge them to pull up Yelp and find the location of the black market. I challenge them with the data that our gun violence and death rate is dramatically higher than in nations with strict gun laws.
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Some will also say that there are already so many guns and high capacity magazines out there that this wonít make a difference. To that, I say thatís true for 2017. Every year that passes it becomes less true. Imagine if we had taken action after Columbine in 1999 (15 dead, 24 injured), Virginia Tech in 2007 (32 dead, 17 injured), Sandy Hook in 2012 (26 dead, 2 injured), or even as recently as the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando last year (49 dead, 58 injured).
Itís past time to talk about smart, principled national policy that respects the Second Amendment and the lives of American citizens and our guests. Republicans must find the courage to end their love affair with gun manufacturers and the NRA.