Viewpoint: Once more, with feeling: End gun violence now

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Karen Rubin

Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan: Here we go again.

President Reagan, recall, was shot in 1981 by a crazed gunman; his press secretary Brady was severely injured and spent a lifetime incapacitated. It took another 12 years, but the Brady Bill was passed, mandating a background check and waiting period (five days later reduced to three by George W Bush); a ban on assault weapons was passed in 1994 and effectively curtailed senseless, devastating mass shootings for a decade, until George W. Bush allowed the ban to expire.

After yet another massacre – no, two massacres within 13 hours of each other, three if you add the one at the Garlic Festival in California just a few weeks before; four if you add Odessa just days after – only crickets from the Senate despite having the gun safety legislation that passed the House 200 days ago.

The number of mass shootings is over 250 – not in the 15 years since the end of the assault ban, just since Jan. 1. And that doesn’t include the gun deaths, injuries fewer than four at a time. Hard to keep track, and the NRA-controlled Congress makes sure of it, banning the CDC from even researching gun violence as a public health hazard.

What was Texas response after back-to-back mass killings? The state actually eased restrictions, requiring schools, churches, businesses, stores to allow open carry. (My press request to find out if guns could not be barred from Texas courts, its Capital building, Governor’s office, town halls with legislators was ignored).

And still the Republicans do nothing. In just the 200 days since Mitch “Grim Reaper” McConnell has refused to take up gun safety legislation that passed the House, 18,000 people have been killed, tens of thousands more maimed physically and/or mentally for life.

Trump, whose rhetoric and policies have unleashed much of the violence (“He may not have pulled the trigger, but his tweets were the ammunition,” said Kamala Harris), dodges even passing universal background checks saying, “There isn’t the political will.” That is an extraordinary statement considering 90 percent of Americans – including Republicans and gun owners – want universal background checks and there are strong majorities for other measures too to stop the epidemic of gun violence.

Beto O’Rourke, who has found his raison d’etre as a presidential candidate after the terror attack on El Paso in which 22 people were killed and another 25 injured in just six minutes, declared at the Democratic Debate in Houston, “the high impact, high velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body, because it was designed to do that, so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.

“When we see that being used against children.. hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”

No one policy or restriction will address every incidence of gun violence – and Republicans play this shell scam in each instance, “Well background checks wouldn’t have stopped that mass murder,” or “banning assault weapons wouldn’t have stopped that murder-suicide.” In fact, I am not satisfied with just doing one thing, like universal background checks or “redlining,” though these are the absolute minimums. Here’s what needs to be done:

Renew the 1994 assault weapons ban. Too many still in people’s hands? The most popular gun? Have a buy-back program with a timeline to bring them in and increase the felony charges for possession.

Smart guns would go a long way to ending tragedies by children who get their parents’ guns, robbers who steal homeowners’ weapons, the straw-man acquisitions that negate background checks.

Restrict ammo capacity. Horrifying to think of the 20 people dead in Dayton in just 32 seconds, well before the “good guy with a gun” could do anything.

Tax purchases of guns, ammo, equipment, the money going to Victims’ Fund.

Limit how many guns, how much ammo can be purchased; ban online sales altogether; prosecute straw purchases; prosecute gun trafficking into jurisdictions with restrictive gun laws (instead, the NRA has been wanting Republicans to make the least restrictive laws, like open carry, valid in places a person travels to).

Pass Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation (Red Flag laws) preventing individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing a firearm; establish stricter reporting requirements to prevent those deemed by a mental health professional to be a danger to themselves or others from purchasing a firearm (Obama had this; the Republicans rescinded it, but now attribute every gun crime to mental illness, without doing a lick about it).

Requiring training, licensing, registration (we require voter registration, don’t we), and a national database; require gun owners to have special liability insurance (like auto insurance, homeowners insurance).

Prosecute gun owners if guns are not secured and used to commit crime, violence; prosecute parents for negligent homicide if child gets hold of gun and kills someone or themselves.

And of course, pass universal background checks closing the private gun sales and gun-shows and online sales loopholes.

I’m willing to bet my life that these changes will save thousands of lives – multiple September 11ths – each year.

We are all living in fear. If unrestricted access to guns represents “liberty” and “freedom,” the rest of us are robbed of both “liberty” and “freedom,” forced to live behind walls and metal detectors. The growth industry in this country is Security, which takes resources away from actual education, healthcare, actual creative business pursuits. Meanwhile, the cost of gun violence – lost lives, lost productivity, health and remedial costs – skyrocket. And that should end.

End gun violence. Now.

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