by Caleb Talley
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: I’m an ardent supporter of one’s right to own a gun – be it a pistol, shotgun, AR-15 or a musket.
But in the wake of such preventable tragedies like we witnessed last week in Florida, there has to be some deliberation as to where our opinions and reality intersect when it comes to deadly weapons. As it always does in times like these, the gun debate wages on.
What – if anything – do we do? Should we ban certain guns? All of them?
I don’t believe sweeping wholesale gun bans will do much to prevent the roughly 33,000 gun-related deaths that occur in this country each year. And there is research to support that. But I do believe there are some common-sense reforms that can be implemented to help keep guns from the unfit.
Lawmakers should take a hard, uncomfortable look at HIPAA laws in regard to mentally ill patients who may pose a threat to those around them. There are cracks, chasms even, in the reporting system that have to be sealed.
I am in no way suggesting that patients with a mental illness not be afforded privacy protections by HIPAA, as it might be implied. I also don’t believe people with disabilities should be scapegoated in our country’s stalemated argument over gun control.
I am, instead, suggesting that lawmakers consider means by which a mental health professional can notify law enforcement agencies if he or she deems a patient unfit to possess a weapon. It may not have prevented the Florida shooting, but it could prevent many other troubled individuals from lawfully obtaining a gun and using it to harm.
And in the way of opening lines of communication, a second measure worthy of consideration is to improve interagency reporting in law enforcement. Regardless of whether it is federal, state or local, there has to be an unhampered transference of intelligence from one agency to another in order to prevent criminals from slipping through the cracks.
Consider the mass murder of a Texas church congregation last fall. The deranged gunman was kicked out of the Air Force after he was convicted of beating his wife and their infant son, which would have precluded him from buying the guns he used to massacre 26 people. But his military criminal record did not show up on the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database, making it possible for him to legally obtain the weapons of war he would later use to kill men, women and children.
And this one should be a no brainer: no fly, no buy. If someone is suspected of engaging in terrorist activity, that person should never be allowed to purchase weapons. It’s really that simple.
Congressional Democrats pressed for a law in 2016, following the Orlando nightclub shooting, that would have barred anyone on a no-fly or terrorist watch list from buying guns. Republican lawmakers swiftly shot it down, many of whom argued that no-fly lists were arbitrary and subjective. I call BS.
This isn’t some random listing of names thrown together by people like you and me. The no-fly list is the result of a sophisticated procedure undertaken by the Terrorist Screening Center, or TSC. The TSC, a division of the FBI, is comprised of members from Homeland Security, Department of Defense, military intelligence and other intel veterans who’ve spent decades protecting the country from foreign and domestic threats. If you’re on the no-fly list, there’s a good reason for it. And I don’t want you to have a gun.
If an individual is flagged for having the same name as a suspected terrorist, they may be subjected to additional screening, just as they would in an airport. A few minor inconveniences or an extended waiting period to buy a gun is worth the price if it saves even one innocent life. Deal with it.
But as useful as the measures could be, in theory, they still don’t go far enough for some gun reform activists. In a CNN town hall earlier this week, Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio acknowledged the need for reform only to be shouted down and booed by the crowed because he would not get behind comprehensive bans on all “assault” weapons.
These types of bans are most often lobbied by the left and media types as a simple fix to our country’s gun problem. But in reality, wholesale bans on certain types of weapons would have very little, if any, impact in preventing the 33,000 gun deaths each year. To understand why, just look at the statistics.
Two-thirds of those 33,000 gun deaths were suicides. Having a gun does make it easier for someone to commit suicide. But it’s hard to say whether or not taking that gun away would stop someone from taking his or her own life. And I can’t imagine a ban on assault weapons would prevent them, either.
Young men, ages 15 to 34, account for the second largest group of gun-deaths, representing 20 percent of annual gun deaths. According to the statistics, these men were most likely to die at the hands of other young men, and most often are related to street violence. Nearly 2,000 homicide victims each year are women, most often killed as a result of domestic violence.
And even in the case of mass shootings, assault rifles (which an invented classification) aren’t even the weapons most often used. Research shows that the vast majority of mass shootings since 1982 were carried out by handguns. Yet, all we seem to hear about are bans on AR-15s and assault rifles.
The gun reform measures most frequently floated out by politicians today would do little to protect these individuals, who make up roughly 90 percent of the gun deaths each year. Through more narrowly tailored interventions, many of these lives could be saved. But sweeping bans on certain types of weapons is not going to do it.
These policies are most frequently lobbied by individuals who know very little about guns, whose knowledge of weapons extend only to what they’ve seen on television or social media. And in the process of defending their proposals, the Second Amendment is often grossly misrepresented… But we’ll get to that next week.
In Cash & Candor, Arkansas Money & Politics / AY Magazine Editor Caleb Talley aims to shoot it straight when it comes to business and politics in and around the Natural State. Talley comes to AMP by way of the Arkansas Delta, where he called balls and strikes at the Forrest City Times-Herald. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] Read more Cash & Candor here.