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The Gun Battle, Part Three: Democrats and Republicans, Can We All Get Along – and Do Something to Prevent Mass Shootings?

If it wasn’t heartbreaking, our predictable routine would be humdrum:

1. A senseless mass shooting horrifies America.
2. Americans demand the government do SOMETHING to prevent future shootings.
3. President Trump announces that something WILL be done this time.
4. The Democratic-controlled House advances legislation addressing gun violence.
5. The NRA badgers Trump; he backtracks, declaring “we already have serious background checks” or “we will protect the Second Amendment”.
6. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to allow the House bill a hearing or a vote.
7. Trump and Republicans repeat the NRA mantra: the real issue is mental health, not guns.
8. Trump moves on, the outcry dies down, NOTHING changes.
9. A month or two later (if we’re lucky, no sooner), Steps 1 – 8 repeat.

Time for a different approach. Instead of beating our heads against the wall (or each other’s) over gun laws, let’s follow Republicans’ lead and address gun violence as a mental health issue.

Anybody who murders four or more innocent people (the common definition of mass shootings), including people they don’t know, appears mentally ill. Psychiatrists might dispute that; but to most of us, that heinous act, by nature, demonstrates insanity. If that insanity were treated proactively, maybe some mass shootings could be prevented – saving hundreds of lives.

The main reason this possible preventive measure goes nowhere: BILLIONS of dollars required to provide mental health services to ALL Americans needing them. With enormous federal deficits already (climbing higher under Trump, the candidate who promised he’d eliminate them), few lawmakers want to increase them.

But instead of letting that concern stop this approach dead in its tracks (pardon the mournful pun), could we find another funding source?

Since practically all mass killings are committed with guns, why not add TAXES to the purchase of guns and ammunition, to specifically pay for preventive mental health treatments?

And if we want to discourage certain guns and ammunition (assault weapons and large ammo clips, for example), why not tax them at a higher rate, with a lower rate for less lethal ones, such as .22 caliber guns and ammo? That way, low-income Americans could still afford to arm and protect themselves; but guns and ammunition designed for warfare, inflicting the most serious casualties in the least amount of time, would become prohibitively expensive.

Why not appoint a bipartisan commission of mental health experts, to determine the kinds of treatments needed to prevent mass shootings – and estimate their costs?

Why not take those estimates, and the numbers of guns and bullets purchased in the previous year, to calculate taxes needed on future purchases to fund those treatments?

President Trump and Republicans, time to “put up or shut up”. Are you serious about preventing mass shootings? Are you serious about mental health as the true cause? If so, are you willing to spend money (without increasing deficits) to seriously address that issue?

Likewise, Democrats. Can you look beyond more gun laws as the only solution – and stop advocating (as one presidential candidate has) radical ideas like confiscating weapons Americans purchased legally? Can you instead support a bipartisan solution that might actually WORK?

One final question: do you have the courage to finally DO something together – before mentally ill mass shooters kill more innocent Americans?

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