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The More Things Don’t Change…But Could

Editor’s Note (all notes, added April, 2021, in bold type):

Recent mass shootings focused attention again – temporarily – on gun issues. Some received less attention; maybe because deaths were fewer – or Americans were numbed by the carnage, yet again.

TMM addressed this issue in 2019, with a three-part series on gun violence.

Since it seems relevant today, we’re re-running it (updated with recent information and images), confirming America’s failure to address this epidemic, yet again.

The first installment, The Gun Battle, Part One: America, We Have a Problem, highlighted the magnitude of our shootings (especially compared to other countries’). The second (The Gun Battle, Part Two: Have We Seen This Movie Before?) identified the mass-shootings cause both political parties might agree on.

This final installment offers hope – a new solution, encouraging Democrats and Republicans to address that cause together.

Moderates hope the more things don’t change… they finally could.

TMM’s proposed solution (2019):

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 routine would be humdrum:

  • Senseless mass shootings horrify America.
  • Americans demand the government do SOMETHING to prevent them.
  • President Trump (or whoever is president) announces something WILL be done.
  • The Democratic-controlled House advances legislation addressing gun violence (again, in 2021).

  • The NRA badgers Trump; he backtracks, declaring “we already have serious background checks” and “we will protect the Second Amendment”.

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to allow the House bill a hearing or a vote (in 2021, as Minority Leader, McConnell commands Republicans to NOT support it, denying Democrats the 60-vote threshold needed for passage).
  • Trump and Republicans repeat the NRA mantra: the real issue is mental health, not guns.
  • Trump moves on, the outcry dies down, NOTHING changes (in 2021, President Biden announced six Executive Actions, not needing Congressional approval, to address gun violence; limited, by nature, they won’t prevent all mass shootings).
  • Sometime later (not soon, if we’re lucky), steps repeat.

Time for a different approach. Instead of beating our heads against the wall (or each other’s) over guns, let’s follow Republicans’ lead: address mass shootings 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 demonstrates insanity. If that insanity were treated proactively, maybe some mass shootings could be prevented – saving hundreds of lives.

One reason this potential preventive measure receives zero attention: 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, and still climbing under Biden), few Republicans agree to increase them.

But instead of letting that concern kill this proactive approach (pardon the mournful pun), let’s find another funding source.

Since practically all mass killings are committed with guns, why not add User Fees to all gun and ammunition purchases – to pay for preventive mental health programs?

If we want to discourage certain guns and ammunition (assault weapons and large ammo clips), why not set their fees much higher than less lethal ones, such as .22 caliber guns and ammo? Low-income Americans could still afford to arm themselves; but guns and ammunition designed to quickly inflict serious casualties would become prohibitively expensive.

America banned assault-weapons sales from 1994 until 2004 (when former President Bush and Congressional Republicans allowed the ban to expire). Studies showed mass-shooting fatalities were less likely during the ban (by as much as 70%), but Congress has been impotent to pass it again, due to NRA-backed GOP resistance.

So if Congress can’t muster the will to ban these killing machines again, we could at least tax them enough to discourage their purchase.

Why not appoint a bipartisan commission of mental health experts, to design programs needed to prevent mass shootings and estimate their costs? Then take those estimates, and the numbers of guns and ammo purchases in previous years, to calculate fees needed on future purchases to fund those programs?

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 address that issue?

Democrats, can you look beyond gun laws as the only solution – and avoid advocating radical proposals (like confiscating legally-purchased weapons)? Can you instead support a bipartisan solution that might actually WORK?

Final question: do you both have enough courage to DO something together – before mentally ill mass shooters kill HUNDREDS MORE innocent Americans?

 

Images: Google Images

Mourner at shooting site: Daily Mail – Getty Images

NRA and Trump: MSNBC News

McConnell: Chicago Tribune

Mass murderers: Twitter

Gun sales: Richmond Times-Dispatch

Mental-health panel discussion: Harvard Gazette – Harvard University

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  1. I like your proposal to set high fees on automatic weapons and job capacity magazine clips. It is an interesting way to address the issue of gun safety.

    1. THANKS for your comments. We’re hoping to get that proposal out to a bigger audience (especially politicians, influencers, media, etc.), hoping it might be included in current discussions about gun violence and mass shootings – as a new way to address them. Any suggestions for doing that would be much appreciated.

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