Can We Reduce Mass Shootings, Homicides and Suicides, with the Use of Firearms? Here’s My Proposal
In the wake of three recent mass shootings, the country is again debating whether and which restrictions should be placed on firearms to reduce deaths and severe injury in the future. How can we do better? To begin, we should analyze but let’s drop the political blame game. No matter how you feel about this issue, it does no good. Let’s also concede it is not a simple issue – guns, mental health, societal alienation, fascination with violence, all are part of this. However, what stands out about our country is the massive number of firearms in society (400 million) and the access to them. Since our homicide and suicide rates are quantum times those of other countries, are we that much sicker, or broken, than most of the world? Let’s just agree that we all want to do something about so many senseless deaths.
My own experience leads me to believe that fewer firearms will reduce deaths, but a large portion of society does not agree. There are those who are gun enthusiasts and a larger group, those who want to be sure to have a firearm for protection of their home and family. And their greatest fear, regardless of whether it is justified, is that their guns will be taken away or use restricted. So while I am passionate about doing something now, today, on firearms control, I have said that while it takes only, let’s say, one-hundred millionth of all the firearms out there for a mass shooting, such restrictions not likely to reduce mass shootings for many years yet – but they will reduce more quickly the incessant cycle of violence that takes so many lives in many of our neighborhoods.
So, while I agree with the major steps suggested for reform, I would begin my legislative proposal in the House of Delegates with something to the effect of ‘Notwithstanding other provisions of this Act, if you did not obtain your firearms illegally prior to January 1, 2019, you can keep them,’ period. We are not going to take them away. The government can offer buybacks, which will bring back some of those firearms, but not a high percentage. Confiscation has not worked and is not cost effective except for very specific criminal behavior such as felons or domestic abusers.
Every one of many of the firearms restrictions proposed would have a positive effect on deaths in this country – universal background checks, red-flag laws that unfortunately may not survive a constitutional test, limits to purchasing one firearm a month that we have had in Virginia (stop the straw purchasers-arms traffickers), bans on military-style weapons such as we had in the 90s, outlawing large capacity magazines, registration of transfer of firearms. And if you want to have a firearm, why not a smart gun that only you can fire? Might save your child from an accident or protect you from an accidental shooting.
But I also believe we should enhance penalties for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. To change behavior, we must affect the costs for the perpetrator as well as the supply of their facilitator of violence. I know those measures already apply in Virginia, and there is a fear that they would involve more African-Americans in the criminal justice system, but for me this is one way of better protecting African-Americans who are needlessly subjected to shooting on their streets and are the victims disproportionately of homicide with the use of a firearm.
These measures would reduce death and injuries, but what about all those millions of military weapons out there and people with problems who may want to shoot others someday. First, if you want to keep your military-style firearms, my proposal is to limit their possession to the home, to a legitimate firing range, and to transportation between. That’s it. Nowhere else. That gives the police a tool to confiscate them if they are in an unauthorized location. Second, I would propose a carefully and somewhat narrowly constructed provision to assist survivors – family members of the dead and the injured and their families – to seek a civil remedy (to sue) the families or friends who have lived under the same roof and knowingly allowed or deliberately ignored mass shooters in preparing for their shooting rampage. Look at where the mass shooters come from and oftentimes the families that chose to ignore the preparation for a massacre or at least the desperate condition of the shooter.
For military-style weapons, let’s consider dealing with the ammunition supply chain. After all, it isn’t the gun that kills people. It is the bullet. First, move the age up to 30 for people to purchase center fire ammunition. Second, sell center fire ammunition only at gun ranges with an approved script by law enforcement. Third, limit and restrict removal of center fire ammo from gun ranges per law enforcement-approved script. The ammo doesn’t leave the range and anyone under 30 must be accompanied by an adult over 30. Fourth, mandate that ammo manufacturers permanently mark the casing enabling traceability of the ammo supply chain. Impose penalties for those casing when found at future shooting sites if it was purchased without a law enforcement script.
Lastly, realize that we no longer live in a world where people could leave their doors unlocked at night. In public that you are entering a world where some no longer have a moral or ethically based life. These shooters obviously have no empathy for you or anyone else. Our culture has changed. These are attack on the family and the laws of God. Many young males are raised with no adult male in their family. We need to change that but that will take generations. We need to regain the values of acceptance and living peacefully with others. But going to the place we want to go requires a recognition of what is realistic now. Put your support behind people willing to work long and hard to right the ship. Let’s be careful, smart about our strategy, and not take the easy way out to pursuing headlines.
Prayer and empathy are necessary to solve the problem but not sufficient. Saint Augustine’s guidance is right – “Pray as if everything depended on God. Work as if everything depended on you.”
Rather than having gun laws that change every time the party in power changes, can we not make changes that are likely to endure? I think we can in Virginia if we do it in a balanced way. Electing an Independent like me – me – will certainly make it more likely.
Virginia House of Delegates