I want to see if it is possible for me to let my anger at the recent shootings drop from "flame" to "coals" for a bit and see if something helpful can't "cook" there. I have to be honest and say that I do not like the places that my mind goes when I am angry. It has taken me a long time to get to the place where I can use the energy of my anger for positive purposes...and I do not want to give that power away to the purveyors of racism and hatred. So this particular writing is an attempt to address the issues at hand with some passion, but to temper my speech a bit.
There seem to be three basic responses as to what the areas are that need to be addressed. Not that anyone addresses these areas, they are used most often as a focus to draw attention away from the other areas for political reasons. But I can't help wonder what might happen if we took all three areas seriously and sought to address them together. These areas are: Radicalized Racism; Mental Health; Gun Laws.
My suggestion is that by addressing all three together, we can create a "3 legged stool" on which the increased safety of our communities can sit.
Radicalized Racism There has been some notable success combating both ISIS type extremism as well as White Nationalism by going to the dark web and tackling the arguments made for hate there at the source. This and other efforts to not let the racist, fear mongering that goes with White Nationalism deserve some support and financial backing. Yes, we need to remove hate speech that calls for the killing of people of color or whoever is being targeted. But what would happen if we spent some time, instead of getting caught up in free speech debates, utilizing that same free speech to challenge the validity of the ideas where they rise? Aren't we more apt to be successful in this way than we are in trying to shut down the speech and getting caught up in the arguments about whether or not this is okay?
I realize that such conversations are draining and take a great deal of energy. But might they not produce great dividends in the end?
[I would also note that the FBI and other agencies have spent countless hours monitoring chat rooms where pedophiles and child molesters gathered for the purpose of intervening before they could engage in criminal behavior, utilizing these same skills to intervene in the criminal actions of White Nationalists might be worth a look.]
Mental Health Though the truth (supported by data) is that mentally ill persons are more likely to hurt themselves than they are to hurt others; there is a certain subset of mentally ill individuals who engage in violence, including gun violence, toward others. This, combined with the fact that most of the mass shootings are committed by young white males raises some suggestive points. One is the need for additional mental health personnel in our high schools and colleges who can spot the mental health issues that are most likely to lead to gun violence and/or suicide (remember, these folks are more likely to hurt themselves than others). Such professionals need to be trained in "trauma informed" approaches to dealing with those whose behavior signals the presence of violence risk (since we know that trauma is very often linked these issues of mental health).
All too often, those who are strong proponents of "gun rights" will begin waving the "mental health flag" when a gun violence tragedy takes place. Waving that flag without following it up with real steps and legislation to tackle the mental health issues they claim are the problem is a sign that they really do not care about gun violence or mental health; they just want a rock to hid under til the storm passes. It is time to "put up or shut up" about mental health.
Reasonable Gun Laws We don't let everyone drive a car. We don't let everyone perform surgery. We don't even let everyone run a barbershop or beauty salon. And, if someone who can drive a car wants to drive a bus or a semi, we make them get a special license to do so. You don't get to drive a car if you have a history of drunk driving. Why should you get to own a gun if you have a history of violence? And if you, for some strange reason, desire to own a semi-automatic with a 100 round capacity, shouldn't we utilize the same wisdom that we use if someone wants to drive a semi? We don't let the driver who wants to drive a semi go to a truck show and avoid the license requirement. Why should someone be able to go to a gun show or a private exchange and avoid a background check?
Background checks and "Red Flag" limits seem to me to be basic level for gun ownership.
A Modest Proposal I know that there are those who will read portions of what I have written above and begin to scream that their 2nd Amendment Rights would be violated. While I strongly disagree; nothing in what I have written violates the right of a citizen to own a gun if they can do so safely; I would propose the following:
Let us take the 2nd Amendment seriously and in whole...not just in part. The 2nd Amendment states that, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms , shall not be infringed."
The ownership and keeping of combat style weapons with large capacity magazines should be limited to those engaged in the purposes of "a well regulated Militia." Individuals desiring to own such weapons should be automatically enlisted in their State National Guard and required to attend drill on a monthly basis with their weapon. They will be required to demonstrate proficiency with said weapon to maintain their membership in this military branch.
I do not think my "Modest Proposal" has a snowball's chance. But I do believe that the recommendations for the other three areas meet the threshold for thoughtful solutions to the gun violence issue. One area by itself will not be enough. We must address all three. We must do more than talk. We must have legislation and action.
Please feel free to share this with anyone you wish....especially legislators who need motivation to do more than talk about "thoughts and prayers." We have reached a time where prayers without action are an abomination, they are "taking the Lord's Name in vain."
Let's put some real pressure on those who make our laws. Let's end the deaths. It's time.