Democrats will soon unveil their program to combat senseless violence. It will get warm love from the press, but little critical analysis.
At day’s end, the Democrat’s plan is not going to advocate for gun confiscation or a government buy- back mandate. It will not endorse any meaningful invasions of privacy regarding medical records and mental illness. It will make only token efforts at identifying and locating illegal weapons. 300 million guns will remain in circulation and little will be done to prevent guns from getting into the hands of the dangerous, angry and mentally ill. Reforms will be largely symbolic and bureaucratic. They will fall mainly on the law-abiding majority.
You don’t have to be prescient to know the press will view the Democratic proposal favorably. So; what should Republicans do? For now, Republicans should focus this argument narrowly toward violence prevention.
We know some things about mass violence. As with suicide, evidence of intent is often disclosed. The Columbine shooters made a video and submitted a composition both detailing mass murder. The extreme hostility of the Virginia Tech and Fort Hood shooters was widely known as were the mental problems of the Kentucky and Tucson shooters. Revenge was a key motive in the Aurora, Columbine and Kentucky shootings.
Four shooters had a fascination with ultra violent video games or books. With one exception, each shooter was a young male. The evidence shows that young males falling in an age-profile comprising only seven percent of the population commit 45 percent of the murders in America. .
Republicans should use this knowledge to advocate for 1) a rethinking of the involuntary commitment laws; 2) training and guidelines for mandatory reporting, putting dangerous and ill students in touch with mental health resources and advising law enforcement of potential risk; 3) strict penalties for those who conspire with or assist in the procurement of illegal weapons; 4) consideration of reasonable state and local regulations pertaining to the transportation of guns and the licensing of guns to individuals with drug and alcohol-related convictions 5) regulating the violent content of video games. We regulate child porn because of the potential harm to prospective victims. The same logic applies here.
I share the founder’s fear of a government that can disarm the people. That concern is validated across the globe daily. That said, an unfettered right to bear arms doesn’t afford us much protection in that regard. It also has to be weighed against the danger that heavily armed citizens pose to each other. No one should endorse mindless bureaucratic hurdles for law abiding gun owners, but talk of sensible regulation deserves a fair hearing and a civil response.
Finally, argue from the high ground. The criticism directed at some gun control advocates has been frankly unkind. It is completely reasonable to question positions taken by surviving victims of gun violence and their family members. It is less fair to question their motives. They have paid a high price for our Second Amendment freedoms and they have earned the right to disagree.
A politician’s worst instinct leads him or her them to support measures because he can look good in so doing. Some Democrats are leaning in that direction, contemplating support for compassionate-sounding but ineffective reforms. Conservatives should commit to producing an outcome more meaningful than the preservation of gun rights alone.
The NRA has deployed resources well in Congressional elections. Second amendment support is safe in the Congress, less so in the Executive branch. Conservatives will bleed sympathy for their position if they participate only in the gun debate, to the exclusion of the violence discussion. The solution to that problem is more complex than just shooting back.