The last time we discussed much-needed improvements in both enforcing existing gun laws and strengthening the laws currently in place, it was after the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.
Well, here we are again, after this week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland, where 17 people were brutally murdered on a South Florida high school campus. The alleged shooter, a former student, was armed with smoke grenades and multiple weapons, including an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.
Twenty months later, and we still have no answers. Well, that’s not exactly correct. We have answers. What we haven’t seen are solutions implemented to at least try and stem the epidemic of mass shootings in the United States.
According to a May 2012 poll conducted by right-leaning pollster Frank Luntz for the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, gun-owning Americans, including National Rifle Association members, overwhelmingly support several of the common-sense measures typically described as “gun control.” These include:
• Requiring criminal background checks on gun owners and gun shop employees;
• Prohibiting terrorist watch list members from acquiring guns;
• Mandating that gun-owners tell the police when their gun is stolen;
• Concealed carry permits should be restricted to individuals who have completed a safety training course and are age 21 and older; and
• Concealed carry permits shouldn’t be given to perpetrators of violent misdemeanors or individuals arrested for domestic violence.
Following the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012, Newsweek correspondent Michael Tomasky argued the right to bear arms can and should be regulated by the states — not by the federal government via the Second Amendment. “Congress should tell states, in the wake of this surely worse epidemic of gun violence, that they must put some substance into the phrase ‘well-regulated militia,’” Tomasky said, quoting the most overlooked phrase of the Second Amendment. “They must define ‘well-regulated militia’ to include not only the National Guard, but all legally registered gun-owners in the state. If they fail to do so, and in line with the precedent set by the drinking-age act, they risk losing 10 percent of their federal law-enforcement funding.”
There is some precedence to this. In the early 1980s, America was up in arms about drunk driving. After much debate and hand wringing about what to do, the focus was narrowed down to younger motorists, who tended to be the more irresponsible drivers. So Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which told states where the legal drinking age varied: you must raise the drinking age in your state to 21 by a specific date. If the states refused, the federal government would deny them 10 percent of their highway money. “Threatening financial penalties should make states get in line pretty fast,” Tomasky reasoned. “They’ll all comply, as they did in the 1980s. What governor is going to want to be responsible for losing 10 percent of his law-enforcement money?”
It’s an interesting concept, but one of many when it comes to balancing the right to bear arms with the safety and security of a modern society.
Can there be change? Will there be change? More specifically, will there be meaningful change — the type that both assuages the fears of gun rights advocates and those who want to prevent the seemingly random acts of violence that result in anywhere from one murder to a massacre? The key part of this is developing and accepting a philosophical adjustment that our national culture can both buy into and implement. Gun control is one of those “hot button” topics that brings out a ton of emotion — emotion that can (and often does) override logic.
Recent events, including this week’s mass killing at Parkland’s high school, have called for an adjustment in the United States’ citizenry’s social contract. It’s time to see what the actual result of this ideological shift leads to… for our individual and collective future.