Somewhere between the extremes of gun bans and “do nothing,” there are common-sense reforms that lawmakers everywhere should start considering as a way to reduce gun violence in America.
We, too, are tired of the stale rhetoric that emerges after every mass shooting in this country. While there are valid points to be made on both sides, America — and especially our children — deserves results.
Broadly speaking, Democrats want to enact restrictions on who can own a gun and what kind of guns should be available, while Republicans maintain that such laws target law-abiding citizens, not criminals. and violate the Second Amendment.
But after Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut (2012), Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida (2016), Mandalay Bay (2017), Pittsburgh synagogue (2018), Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida (2018), the El Paso Walmart (2019) – and the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, NY, and Uvalde, Texas, 10 years ago showing that the status quo is not the answer. These heinous murder scenes are just the tip of the iceberg. Prior to Tuesday’s horror in Uvalde, there have been at least 39 shootings at K-12 schools, colleges and universities in 2022 alone, leaving at least 10 dead and 51 injured.
The numbers show that guns are no longer just for adults. On the same day, 19 children were murdered in Uvalde by an 18-year-old, two high school students were found with guns on campus in separate incidents in the metropolitan area. And these are not unique pieces; Consider the recent deadly shootings at Washington Middle School in Albuquerque and West Mesa High, and we all remember the school shootings in Aztec and Roswell. The shooters were between 12 and 21 years old.
If we are to “do something” as a nation, we must understand that limits on personal freedom can be the cost we as Americans must pay to ensure public safety. Just as there are requirements for driving a vehicle, there should be requirements beyond age for owning a firearm. And raising that age should be on the table.
Yet even something as basic as the expansion of background checks provokes partisan posturing. Even though polls show the proposal has the support of 90% of Americans, including many GOP voters, Republicans in the US Senate initially signaled their opposition. But on Thursday, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told CNN he had encouraged Texas Sen. John Cornyn to begin discussions with Democrats to find common ground on a legislative response to the tragedy. of Uvalde.
They must seize the opportunity and not waste another 10 years and countless innocent lives.
Implementing a background check system is one of the top three pieces of legislation commonly shared by countries that have reduced gun violence, according to a 2016 study published in the academic journal Epidemiologic Reviews. Others ban high-powered weapons, such as automatic rifles, and require people to obtain permits and licenses before purchasing a firearm.
If it were true that rampant gun ownership creates a safer society, America would be the safest nation on Earth. The Washington Post reports that there are 1.2 guns for every person in America: “That’s the highest rate of gun ownership in the world — and it’s not even close. Yemen, in second place, has about 1 firearm for every 2 inhabitants. In Britain there is approximately 1 gun for every 20 people and in Japan it is 1 gun for every 334 people.
If Congress once again fails to move beyond the empty thoughts and prayers of members, we need state lawmakers to do a better job of giving law enforcement a fighting chance to get guns and the criminals who use them on the streets. With the Democratic-led legislative and executive branches holding a special session just to legalize recreational weed, this shouldn’t be a heavyweight. Democrats and Republicans should work to crack down on the criminal use of guns.
And yet, this spring, only a few sensible reforms have crossed the finish line, most of them in watered-down form:
• Criminalize mass threats as a fourth degree felony. (Bill 68 made it a misdemeanor.)
• Expand gun bans in schools to comply with federal law. (Killed in committee.)
• Make possession of a firearm by a minor a felony rather than a misdemeanor. (Killed in committee.)
• Increase penalties for possession of a firearm by a criminal where the prior crime is a serious violent offence. (HB 68 changed the proposed second-degree felony with a potential of nine years in prison to a third-degree felony with a potential of six years in prison.)
• Provide for the confiscation of firearms used in the commission of a crime. (Section 30 of HB 68.)
• Target violent offenses and drug trafficking with a firearm by instituting mandatory and graduated penalties based on the degree of dangerousness similar to federal law. (HB 68 made penalties discretionary, not mandatory, and removed “purchaser or alleged purchaser” from the definition of a drug transaction, limiting applicability.)
• Introduce penal and criminal penalties for recklessly making a firearm available to a minor. (Parliamentary Appropriations and Finances Tabled HB 9.)
Of course, laws only work if they’re enforced, and Journal columnist Joline Gutierrez Krueger points out that’s not happening with the 2019 law requiring those under protective orders to hand in their guns. fire to law enforcement within 48 hours. And how many guns have been seized under the Extreme Risk Protection Order 2020 legislation? We bet little or not.
While mental health services and safety measures are important, data shows that a key part of solving gun violence is keeping them out of the hands of the wrong people. Will our state and national leaders step up, compromise, and pass laws with this goal in mind?
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than that of the editors.