Conservatives should no longer act as though there is no need to reassess norms or implement any change in efforts to reduce mass shootings. Indeed, many on the Right have already begun to concede change must be made and have offered possible solutions.
Jane Coaston at Vox evaluated suggestions such as putting armed drones in school, using Homeland Security technology in schools, or arming school staff — all of which she ultimately concludes violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and create “a clash of ideals for many on the Right, who simultaneously rail against the expansion of the state into the lives of everyday Americans when it comes to say, food stamps or welfare benefits, but who are now voicing support for policies that would bring the ‘police state’ into fifth-grade classrooms.”
No, conservatives must offer conservative solutions for reducing mass gun violence — this way, conservatives can ensure that gun control proposals also adhere to conservative principles. Here are six possible ideas:
- Improve background checks by strengthening the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The background check system that exists today is only as good as the records that feed into it. There are unfortunately countless examples of prohibitive convictions or mental health records that should have prevented an individual from purchasing a firearm but failed because they weren’t in the database. We need to provide states with sufficient funding to ensure that all appropriate and relevant records are being inputted into the database.
- Gun-violence restraining orders provide a way to prohibit those who pose a danger to themselves or to others from possessing or purchasing a firearm and do so in a way that allows for due process so as to not unduly restrict the Second Amendment rights. Domestic violence should be an automatic red flag.
- Prosecute felons and fugitives (and others who are prohibited from purchasing firearms) who illegally attempt to purchase a firearm. In 2010, over 48,000 felons and fugitives illegally attempted to purchase firearms by lying on background check forms. Of those 48,000, only as many as 44 were prosecuted. Data indicates that this horrible record of prosecution is not a new problem. We should prosecute these individuals at a much higher rate and ensure that individuals who are prohibited from owning a gun do not illegally attempt to acquire one.
- Introduce severe penalties or criminal liability for those who sidestep important processes (that are not currently required by federal law for private sales) and put guns into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. If an individual sells a firearm to another private individual, in many instances, a background check is not legally required. Perhaps it is time to examine the idea of holding individuals criminally responsible if they sell a firearm to an individual who 1) is prohibited from owning a firearm and 2) who uses that firearm in a crime and 3) did not have a background check conducted before the sale of the firearm to the individual who committed the crime. Such firearm sellers are not protected by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which only protects firearms manufacturers and dealers.
- Implement age limits and tiers for different types of weapons.
- And, most importantly, the government following protocols. Incompetence by local, state, and federal government is perhaps the biggest danger of all. Furthermore, time after time, existing gun laws are not enforced. Why is the immediate focus not on correcting that, than creating new laws?
These ideas are not perfect, but they could at least be a start to a much-needed discussion. By not joining the discussion, we miss the opportunity to offer suggestions that are effective while respecting the Second Amendment.
Conservatives should not only join the gun control conversation, they should lead it, in order to find and offer solutions that respect the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms but also help to reduce the senseless tragedies we’ve seen of late.
If we fail to do so, it’s not only possible but quite likely that Democrats will feel emboldened to act unilaterally upon their inevitable return to power to enact gun control that is significantly more severe, that do curtail Americans’ Second Amendment rights, and that won’t be nearly as effective at stopping mass shooters — and after more lives have been lost, the cycle of screaming at each other and increased tribalization will begin anew.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.