EDITORIAL: Shots fired, again


As the smoke clears at a Nashville school, the site of the latest mass shooting (as of this writing), we keep going over and over in cloudy mind what to do. Just as we did after Jonesboro. And Columbine. And Virginia Tech. And Uvalde.

The debate about what to do is at least a debate about what to do. Unlike in years past, when folks just shrugged their shoulders. Or maybe worse, clutched their pearls and tsk-tsked at all that violence “over there.” Debates tend to change when “over there” becomes “here.”

So what to do?

Let’s fan away the clouds long enough to make this clear: If we disagree about somebody’s ideas on how to solve America’s mass shooting problem (or any shooting problem) that doesn’t mean we think the person is somehow on the “other side” of the issue. We’re all trying to get to the same goal. Some of us feel, however, that some of the suggestions would get to the goal much slower, if ever.

For instance:

Get rid of the Second Amendment. Or at least interpret it differently. After all, it only says what five people in black robes say it says.

Have you seen the makeup of the United States Supreme Court lately? It will be years, if ever, that that bench rules that the Second Amendment was created for militias only.

As for excising the amendment from the Constitution via the amendment process, good luck. There’s a reason the Constitution is so rarely amended: It’s hard to do. And requires a vote of states.

Does anybody really think that three-fourths of the states (38 of them) would vote to get rid of the amendment protecting personal gun ownership? And how many mass shootings are We the People willing to put up with until that day?

Ban assault weapons.

That might be a good idea. If only to show that such bans have never worked in the past, and likely won’t work now. Then folks can finally get over that–and begin to work to actually solve the problem.

To ban assault weapons would be to take out of gun stores all cool-looking (and scary-looking) semi-automatic rifles that are painted black and have straps and maybe pistol grips. But a ban wouldn’t take away the 16 million AR-15s already on the streets.

Were we to magically make those disappear, the crazies looking to shoot up the world would just turn to semi-automatic rifles that aren’t painted black and not considered “assault” weapons according to legal definitions. Your granddad’s deer rifle shoots just as fast. And might be much more accurate.

But not all is lost.

There are things that Americans and their leaders can do to make their communities safer. If they only would:

The papers say Tennessee doesn’t have red-flag laws. And the shooter in Nashville was the poster child for such laws. The cops said she had seven firearms. But . . . .

The shooter “was under a doctor’s care for an undisclosed emotional disorder and was not known to police before the attack.”

Maybe a red-flag law wouldn’t have prevented this shooting, but it damn sure couldn’t have hurt to have had one. Besides, the point of red-flag laws isn’t to prevent every shooting known to man and woman, but to decrease them. As much as one law can.

Close loopholes for background checks.

Even the NRA doesn’t oppose background checks. This is almost a universal idea. But there are ways around those checks.

The biggest is called the “gun show” loophole, although it is much broader than that. Federal law requires background checks be performed by all licensed gun sellers. But what about unlicensed gun sellers? Such as some of those found at gun shows, or in the parking lots of gun shows, or on the Internet? A minority of states have closed this loophole, but Congress hasn’t acted on the federal level. It should.

Toughen schools.

And when they are all “hardened” targets, then we can discuss movie houses, churches, concert arenas, and other places that become problems. But now, many schools are considered soft targets, and crazies are drawn to them. Toughen them up.

That means fencing. Cameras. Locked doors. The days of the “open campus” are long gone, or should be. Armed police should patrol the grounds at every level of schooling–even elementary. All three of the children that were killed in Nashville this past week were 9 years old.

Having armed police on campuses won’t prevent all school shootings any more than a red-flag law would. But again, the point isn’t to prevent every shooting, but to come up with suggestions that will decrease them effectively.

There has to be a better way to identify people with severe mental illness, and flag them if they try to buy a gun. We’re not talking about folks suffering from insomnia or mild depression. (Lord, who doesn’t at times?) But folks who hear voices and think microwaves are after them, and black out from anger and have a police rap sheet? Those are the types we mean.

If your grocer can keep up with what kinds of canned vegetables you buy, and print out coupons for your favorites on the back of your receipt … if a search engine on the Internet can suggest movies you might like based on the movies you’ve searched for in the past . . . . if your iPhone can play an assortment of songs you probably like based on the song you asked it to play an hour ago … .

Then there’s got to be a better way to keep up with sick folks who shouldn’t have access to guns.

If this were easy, Americans would have done it before now. When it comes to guns, and any restrictions thereof, nothing’s easy. Not in a country with a Second Amendment in its founding rule book and a culture of gun ownership going back before Daniel Boone. But even we Americans have put the brakes on the craziness before.

Fully automatic weapons make their only appearances in movies. Felons can’t get guns (legally). Sawed-off shotguns are verboten. Why can’t we take other important steps?

We think some of these suggestions are common sense. But as Congress and state legislatures keep proving, common sense isn’t that common nowadays.

Until it is, we’ll keep hammering away at these points. Not to prevent every shooting, which might never happen, but to seriously reduce them.

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